Back pain threatens who you are

I don’t like having back pain.  And yet, the single biggest risk factor for future low back pain is having had it before (that puts me squarely in the firing line).  Why?  Because most of us don’t change what we do; we just fix the problem short-term, then go back to our old habits and hope for the best.   Sound familiar?  Can I let you into a little secret?  Me too; I also have a tendency to forget all the good commitments I’ve made and slide back towards another episode of low back pain.

Two weeks ago I had another flare up.  This was different to the one back in October; at least this time I was lifting something fairly heavy (“peak load”) at the time – last year it was due to “cumulative load“.   Aside from not really enjoying the experience of pain, there are other reasons why I’d like a bullet-proof back.  Here are my reasons…

It makes me feel fragile

I hate feeling less than capable.  When my back is painful – even just mildly – I feel weak, and vulnerable to one of those really severe spasms.  I don’t like feeling fragile.

It restricts me

When my back is sore I feel like I should be careful; I don’t like being careful – I like to feel I can throw myself around and be immune to damage (perhaps related to doing judo and playing rugby as a kid).  I haven’t been able to commute by bike for the last 2 weeks – I tried and it wasn’t a good idea!  I couldn’t run (until a jog/shuffle this morning).  I couldn’t put my socks on until I’d been up for 30 minutes (until this morning).  I struggled to carry my son Louis for more than 20 minutes without looking for a reason to put him down again.  There are a whole load of things I can’t do when my back is sore.  I don’t like feeling restricted.

It makes me anxious

Fortunately for me, I’m very good at not being anxious.  I’m not a worrier.  However, when you’ve had multiple episodes of back pain, you tend to wonder (worry) when the next one is coming along.  This is not good.  No-one wants to spend their life worrying about the “what-ifs”.   Worrying about the future is not at all fun.  I don’t like feeling anxious.

What have I learned?

Having had two significant episodes (more than a wee ache) in the last 7 months, what have I learned?

I need to remember why I want a great back, and here’s what it all adds up to – back pain threatens who I am; it threatens my sense of self.  So, why would I like not to have low back pain ever again?  Because I would always like to be able to

  • support and care for those that matter to me
  • work painfree
  • cycle to and from work
  • go for a run
  • lift heavy things (it helps me feel manly)

Now, this is just me.  What about you (we’re all different)?  What would you like to be able to do that back pain threatens? If you’re a movie goer, it might just be sitting through a 2 hour film.  If you have a sedentary job, it might be being able to sit at work.  Please share in the comments below.  What does back pain threaten that’s important to you?  Who are you?

Remember – it’s good to share!  Thank you!


By | 2017-03-03T09:54:11+00:00 June 8th, 2015|Habits for a Better Back, Uncategorized|2 Comments

About the Author:

Clinic Director and Osteopath. Gavin graduated as a Gold Medallist in 1991 and is now a Vice Patron of the British School of Osteopathy. Co-author of “The Back Book” with Gavin Hastings OBE in 1996, and author of "active X backs - and effective solution for lower back pain"; he has an MSc in The Clinical Management of Pain from the University of Edinburgh. He's passionate about helping to move people as far from illness and pain as possible, and in January 2015 set himself the target of helping a million people get a better back.


  1. Kath Collins 08/06/2015 at 21:09 - Reply

    Things that I like & enjoy doing which can be restricted according to how the back is!!
    -cinema visit
    -stroll on beach as it’s harder to walk on soft sand when back a little prickly!
    -going out for dinner as restaurant chairs can be a killer after 2hrs sitting!

    • Gavin Routledge 09/06/2015 at 05:51 - Reply

      A good list Kath. Remember we talked about “graded exposure”? Find out what amount of sitting you can manage without making your pain worse. Do that twice per day for 3 days, then increase the duration by a little bit for another 3 days, then again etc… Keep at it!

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