CSA Physio Blog

I tweaked my back and now it’s better. I can ignore that, right?

Posted on: November 5th, 2020 by Jeffrey Begg

You want to ignore that “tweak” you felt in your back last week?  Sure, that’s fine.  You can ignore it the same way you ignore the ‘check engine’ light that came on in your car.  You can ignore anything, for a while.  Let’s have a quick talk about that.

What exactly is a tweak?Jeff Begg

A “tweak” is one of those things that everyone who’s had one can relate to, but is really hard to define with words.  Maybe you can relate to it this way:  You’re over 30, maybe closer to 50, and your back has been fine, no troubles.  Except in the last little while.  You know you haven’t really been keeping in shape like you should, but it doesn’t seem to have bothered you, except once or twice in the past year.  Remember that time you bent down to grab your slippers, and you felt that ‘tweak’?  It scared you a bit, but really, it was gone within a day or 2, no big deal.  Wait, it actually happened that time you were on vacation too… ok, it’s happened more times than you’d like to acknowledge.  What now?

I’ll tell you what you don’t need.  You don’t need someone to put ice or heat, or TENS or ultrasound on your back.  It’s not hurting right now, and those things only help when you are actually in pain.  You could try adjustments or acupuncture or massage – those are fine things, but I don’t believe they really get at the problem.  So what is the problem that needs to be ‘gotten at’?  I think you might know – let’s see if this resonates with you:

What’s actually going on?

You can only rest on your laurels so long. (Just like you can only drive with that engine light on for so long)  If you’ve had 10 or 20 years of limited fitness, minimal exercise, and sedentary lifestyle, and your back doesn’t hurt, that’s not normal, that’s lucky.  When you get that ‘tweak’, it’s your body telling you, “look, we’ve been compensating for your declining strength and flexibility for a long time now, and something’s gotta give!”  Our spines stay healthy only when they are moved and exercised and maintained.  Now some folks are very lucky, and have no back pain all their lives, and do little exercise.  The rest of us (me included) have to work at it.

So, the underlying issue to address is to get your spine healthy again through movement.  It is that simple, and that difficult.

Simple?

Yes – movement is safe, cheap and with few side effects.  Medical treatments on the other hand are time consuming, expensive, and introduce possible negative side effects.  We should always pick the simplest solution to a problem, and getting your spine moving again is just that.

Difficult?

Well, only in that you are going to have to set aside time for this on a regular basis, and you’ve got to wade through thousands of possible exercises or programs to find out which movements you need: bending forward? bending backward?  core strength? stretching?  yoga?  which of the 720,000 youtube videos is best for you?

Here’s where I come in.

Let’s say you show up at my office and say that you’ve tweaked your back a couple of times this year, and you want to get it under control before you really have back pain.  First, I’ll confirm with you that you don’t really have much back pain right now, and therefore we’ll simply be looking for how your back has gotten out of shape, and therefore what specific things you need to do to bring it back.  Maybe you just want to learn exercises to do in your living room at home – that’s usually enough.  I believe you can exercise your back in a room as small as a bathroom and still be effective!  Maybe you want to start a fitness class though, and you don’t know if that’s safe.  I’ll assess things and let you know.  Essentially, you and I will determine what exactly is the cause of your ‘check engine’ light coming on (here’s another blog explaining that a bit more), and a plan to prevent a major incident by changing your spine’s health through movement.

If that resonates with you, good.  Because I’ve been doing this a long time, and I so much believe that prevention is healthier than treatment.  Hey – your engine light just went on.  What are you going to do?

Jeff

 

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