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Are we a nation of pill poppers?

“The one thing that is taking up GP’s time is those arriving with back pain.”doctors waiting room

That was the view in the Cambridge News recently, reporting on how we are a nation obsessed with the control of pain and the taking of pain relief. We’ve all done it- reached for the headache tablets when our head is pounding and thanked those little white pills for sweet relief when it’s gone. But what happens the next day and the day after that when the same headache comes back?

A recent study from The Lancet journal has revealed that paracetamol is no better for back pain than placebo. With 26 million people suffering from back pain in the UK, that’s a pretty big number of people reaching for the bathroom cabinet supplies and keeping the pharmaceutical company rich!

Of course there are people who’s lives and conditions rely on medication, we’re not talking about those here naturally. But have we become reliant on the “quick fix” of those little tablets to get us through back, neck or headache pain on a daily basis?

Deal with the cause and not the symptom

From a previous life coping with back pain from a car accident, I know too well of the joy  you feel from re-occurring visits to the osteopath where your back is temporarily “fixed” only for it to spring back again a few days or weeks later and rely on that fixing again. Or to manage the pain with Tens machine and medication that was offered to me with the NHS. Do you want to spend your life like that? I got fed up relying on someone or something to “fix” me and started looking for ways to manage myself and that’s when the lightbulb moment happened.

lightbulb moment

Sure, that’s dealing with the symptoms, but what is the cause?!

In my case the symptoms were back and neck pain, spinal stiffness from being locked up on impact and muscular spasms. But the cause (obviously we know the car accident was the culprit) was that my spine was no longer in alignment, my neck was too far forward, my mid back twisted and locked up, my lower back and pelvis had been trying to cope with this imbalances and caused pain.
After the initial physio help and no help from the Tens machine, I invested in Self Management Tools, better known as Pilates!

It’s really important to get your spine checked out. A good osteopath or chiropractor won’t just look at the symptom (tight hamstrings, sore shoulders etc) but look at the whole spine and realign your spine and pelvis into it’s optimal position, allowing your muscles and joints around it to then work freely and without restrictions. But without some sort of “management tools” to help keep your spine and pelvis aligned, this trip back to the docs or osteoapth  can be a frequent (and expensive) reoccuring one!

For me, once a week doing Matwork lead to 3-4 times a week on both Mat and Reformer and guess what…

magic wand Hey presto, the magic happened!

I was moving my body again in all directions; forward flexion, side bend, rotation twist and backwards extension and feeling supple. I got stronger in my centre and core, my glutes starting working and the pain disappeared. My body started to help itself!

At first I didn’t realise it, but after a couple of weeks I began to think “hang on a minute, my back hasn’t been hurting like it usually does!” and then I realised what I’d been doing differently- Pilates!

But it’s not really magic is it, it’s just a bit of common sense.  Pilates isn’t a magic pill but it’s sensible, controlled movement. Pilates is exercise, exercise is movement, movement is what makes us feel better!

Move often, with control, stability and mobility. Stretch, strengthen, feel better!

And you can look forward to chucking those pills in the bin!

For more info on how Pilates can help you, see www.thepilatespod.co.uk

Managing back pain is like being a tight rope walker

When you think of balance, you imagine the tightrope walker desperately trying not to fall off the rope, leaning one way and the other to achieve a good centre of gravity, alignment and control to be able to walk in a straight line unaided, unaltered and with ease.

Tightrope walker
Life’s about balance, your body is the same!

Your body needs this same ‘balance’ to perform daily tasks with the same ease but we’re not talking about whether you can stand on one leg kinda balance!

Whatever the reason of this imbalance, the cause nearly always ends up the same- imbalance of muscles. As a result of your actions, your muscles may end up either too tight (pulling on the body in one direction) or too weak (allowing a lack of support the other way) and wherever the affected area, there is always a knock on effect through the rest of the body. After all we are like a jigaw puzzle, all pieces of the body connecting together with muscle, ligament, fascia, tissue and skin. You can’t finish the jigsaw without all the pieces, they work together for the overall bigger picture.
What you feel today as a pain in the knee, may later be a pain in the back but you don’t know it, don’t appreciate it and don’t do anything about it until the Doc is telling you to improve your “core” or the physio is sticking their elbow in your butt to release tight muscles.
So if you’re reading this thinking “well I don’t have back pain” GREAT, we want to keep it that way!

Of course if the tight rope walker fell off the rope, he/she’d probably end up hurting herself, just the same as if we fell of a horse, it’d hurt right? We’d know why our back hurt, why we got bruises and the cause would be obvious.BUT for most of us we don’t necessarily put two and two together. As far as we’re concerned, we wake up one day and our back hurts, or we were putting our pants on and that’s it “pop.”

In most circumstances, it’s very unlikely that the very act of putting your pants on made your back go, I severely doubt you are wearing heavily armored pants with a huge weight-bearing effect on your body?!

But instead, the years of sitting at the desk staring at the screen has driven your head and beck forward and taken its toll on your neck and shoulders and lower back by compensation, or the 2 kids you’ve got gave you a lovely baby bump that pulled your pelvis forward and down causing excess strain on your back and the weakened deep abdominal muscles and pelvic floor muscles have never quite been the same or said hello again to help give your back support.

Even the professional football running up and down the pitch all day every day, fit as a fiddle heart and lungs wise, will be kicking the ball repetitively, twisting and turning and running into tackles, allowing for over developed exterior muscles (they look nice don’t they) but with imbalanced weaker inner muscles that give the body support.

So my charming readers, I’m not suggesting you rush out and join the circus and start brushing up on your balance act, but a little mind to what’s going on inside your body on a daily basis as a result of your normal daily tasks is worth the effort. We want strong, healthy bodies, not because for most of us we fancy ourselves as pin-up girls and Calvin Klein models, but because with a focus on inner “core” strengthening exercises, we can develop balance to our muscles an joints and therefore pick up our kids for a cuddle, do a spot of gardening or continue running, all without pain and aches.. or just be able to put our own knickers on… a basic human right surely?!

Large undies!
Pants on time

Until next time… 😉