How back pain really makes you feel

80% of us will experience significant lower back pain at some point in their life. I’m one of those 80%, and it’s one of the reasons we are determined to help so many people at True Physio. I want to share my story, as I think it will be very…

Reading Time: 7 min.

How back pain really makes you feel

80% of us will experience significant lower back pain at some point in their life. I’m one of those 80%, and it’s one of the reasons we are determined to help so many people at True Physio.

I want to share my story, as I think it will be very familiar to a lot of you, and hopefully will give you some cause for at least some optimism when things feel a bit hopeless because of the pain.

My Back Pain Story

In 2010, I ran 2010 miles for charity. I got a couple of hernias for my efforts, but I ended the year feeling good. Going into 2011, I was running regularly, swimming, and I was a Physio and knew all about back problems…surely I was pretty unlikely to get back pain. How wrong I was.

In September 2011, I woke up with a bit of an ache in my left leg. I didn’t think much of it. I went to work as normal, but the ache got worse. And worse. And then a whole lot worse in the coming days, to a point where I couldn’t stand up for more than a few minutes. It felt like someone was trying to pull the muscles in my leg apart. There was such a deep, horrible aching, hot pain.

As a Physio, I knew it was a back problem. By now, my back had started to hurt too a lot, but it was the pain in my leg that was stopping me doing anything. There was no way I could work. I couldn’t even manage a shopping trip as I couldn’t stand up for long enough, or drive far as I had weakness in my left foot.

The previous year, I’d been running marathons. Now I was abandoning a basket in the supermarket because I couldn’t stand any longer.

Treatment and recovery

I was very fortunate to have private health insurance at the time. I don’t know what I would have done without getting quick access to help as the pain was unbearable. Thankfully, with my contacts, I could get an MRI scan quickly, be seen by a Consultant quickly and got 2 epidural injections over the coming weeks. They worked to a point, and meant I could at least stand and walk around a bit, so I could start my recovery.

From the start of the pain, to me being able to at least go back to work was 13 weeks. A very short period in comparison to many with back problems, but long enough for me to understand it a whole lot better than I had.

The Truths about back pain and leg pain

This isn’t about my recovery as such. I want to share what I learned about back pain. How it makes you feel. The impact it has. The fact that it usually does get better but it won’t feel like that.

This is never going to go away

When I got back pain, I’d been a Physio for 7 years. I’d seen hundreds, or probably thousands of people with back pain by that time. I’d helped most of them relieve their pain, and I thought I understood what it was like. I didn’t.

When I got back pain, the overwhelming feeling I got was that this was never going to get better. This was going to be there forever now.

It’s a very odd thing. I’m a Physio. I had so much evidence to tell me the pain would go. I had told so many patients that it would go. I’d seen it happen. But when the pain is there all the time, and you can’t do simple things, it’s impossible to believe that it will go.

Only when the pain went did I believe it would go. Not a moment before. And even then I was pretty sure it would come back again. In the following years, this feeling that it will never go away is one that a massive majority of my patients have repeated to me.

I tell you this not because I want you to suddenly think, “oh cool, it will go away” That’s almost impossible to feel. I just want you to know you’re not alone feeling that, and sometimes, in fact most of the time, it will go away. It just doesn’t feel like it.

Pain does not equal damage

With how much pain I was in, it would have been easy to think something horrific had happened to my back. Discs must have slipped everywhere surely. Well no. Discs don’t slip anywhere anyway, ever. They bulge, and sometimes herniate, but they don’t move anywhere. They get inflamed and press on nerves but they don’t slip. I had a scan on my back. It wasn’t great, but it wasn’t awful.

The level of pain in back pain is a really bad indicator of how severe the problem is. The issue is more with where the injury is. The back is unbelievably important to you, and the nerves are also massively important. Even a small amount of irritation in the back causes a massive response from the body. That response is largely pain.

Luckily I knew this, but even with my knowledge, it was still easy to believe something horrible had happened. The problem is, if that’s your belief, you don’t move around, even when the pain starts to settle, and that causes even more problems.

Pain is a decent indicator something isn’t quite right. It’s an awful indicator of how significantly wrong it is.

Back pain is miserable

Before I got back pain I thought I understood it. I’d been in pain before from various injuries. I was wrong. I didn’t understand it at all. Back pain, and nerve pain are horrific. They never leave you alone. Even if you’re not doing anything, in fact often if you’re not doing anything, you’ll still be in horrible pain. Normal painkillers don’t work, and it’s often impossible to find anything that takes the pain away.

You wake up hoping it won’t hurt, but almost immediately it does. Pain being one of the first things in the morning you feel is soul destroying in itself. Then you spend your day bored, and exhausted as the pain wears you down, counting down the time when you can go to bed and the day will come to and end, only for it to start again the next day. And that’s if you can get to sleep.

It’s just there all the time and is the most wearing pain. It gets you down, and that in itself is a problem because low mood adds to your pain.

Back pain is a very nasty spiral.

Well that was depressing

It doesn’t make for happy reading. But, there’s no point in trying to claim that back pain isn’t that bad. It’s awful. And affects so many people. But, it can get better.

Turns out it really can get better

Despite experiencing all of what I’ve described, I, and a huge majority of people we see with back pain do make a great recovery.

With Physio, really strictly following a strengthening programme and time, my back pain and leg pain went away. Sometimes, I still get bits of pain, but they are mild and short lived. Totally manageable. Having strengthened my back and had the proper treatment at the time, it’s now 12 years since I had a major flare up.

Despite me feeling like it would never go away. Despite it being totally limiting and being on my mind every waking minute. It did go away.

Will your back pain get better? I don’t know. I genuinely hope so, and there is a good chance. If nothing else I hope this short article has helped your realise what you’re feeling it not unusual and you’re not alone.

If we can do anything to help, then please get in touch. Getting the right treatment, at the right time, definitely improves your chances of the pain going away as quickly as possible.

If you’d like to chat to see how we might help, please get in touch. You can find your nearest True Physio clinic and the contact details here

Good luck with it and if you want to just have a talk about it with someone who has felt the pain, then feel free to drop me a message at andy@truephysio.co.uk.

Andy Byrne, Managing Director, True Physio and one of the 80%

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