Tag Archives: pills

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

Osteopath’s thinking… Back Pain- why do we live with it?

Back Pain, why do we live with it?
The statistics are scary, 80% of adults will at some time experience debilitating back pain. As if that’s not bad enough then most of that 80% can look forward to recurring episodes. This can lead to cycles of treatment with your therapist of choice and or popping pills in order to deal with the pain.

back pain

Rather than dealing with the underlying causes many people fall into a cycle of coping with their episodes of back pain and though this may be all circumstances allow us to do in the short term in the long term it could be compounding the problem.

As an osteopath the low back pain patients I see fall into two groups:
• Patients in acute pain who have regular treatment until their symptoms subside
• Patients in acute pain who once their symptoms are under control continue with regular
maintenance treatments.

It’s easy to say that the second group are perhaps making the more sensible choice but we all have different demands on our resources, be this time or finances and for some patients the boom and bust cycle of back pain treatment is the only viable option.
For many people this coping mechanism is what gets you through the rough times but it’s not a great long term solution for many reasons.

What both groups have in common is the factors that contribute to them being in pain are usually similar an unholy trinity of poor movement patterns, leading to imbalanced muscles that act unevenly on the joints of the body resulting in wear and tear and strain.
This is not an easy fix as our movement patterns are difficult to change, especially when people become fearful of movement triggering pain. In many cases the amount of tissue damage that has occurred in order to trigger a painful episode is vastly out of proportion to the acute pain or immobility that can result.

For example the tearing of a few fibres of a ligament will cause an inflammatory response. This is the body’s natural response to any injury. One of my tutors described the area of the injury as becoming like a politician: swollen, painful and useless!
Inflammation begins to subside after 72 hours and this is where movement becomes an essential part of the healing process. As the tissue repairs collagen fibres will start to be laid down around the injured area. If the area is immobile this will happen in a random pattern and the resulting scar tissue could end up restricting movement in the future exacerbating the muscular imbalances in the area and leading to further problems with joint dysfunction.

If the injured area is passively moved through a pain free range of motion during this time then the collagen fibres will organise themselves around these movements and the resulting scar tissue will be far less restrictive with a greater chance of returning to normal movement patterns.
The fear of movement can persist long after the injury has calmed down. This can make people very wary of moving, the very thing that their body is designed to do in order to heal and setting in place the potential for further injury.

pills pills and more pills

Popping pills as a way to cope with back pain also has it’s drawbacks as a long term solution. The over the counter remedies easily available to us typically contain a class of medications known as non steroidal anti inflammatory drugs, or NSAIDS. The NHS Choices websites states that a common side effect of prolonged NSAIDs can be indigestion and stomach ulcers, further adding to your woes.

 

So far this is all pretty depressing but take heart, you are after all reading a Pilates blog and in my next piece I’m going to tell you just why I think Pilates is so fantastic for back pain.

no pills, just Pilates- thanks Pilates Nerd for the image Image by Pilates Nerd

Written by London Osteopath and Pilates instructor, Jon Hawkins
www.freerangepilates.com
Guest blogger for The Pilates Pod