One of the most frustrating things about back pain is how much it interferes with even the simplest daily activities—from getting a pot out of a cupboard to mowing the lawn.
Most people find that specific positions or activities make their back or leg symptoms worse while other particular movements reduce the pain (see Back Pain Stories). As you begin to recover, you may need to limit the pain producing activities for a while. While this may seem difficult or even impossible, there are creative ways to tackle this challenge. If you’re seeing a health professional he or she should be able to give you some practical advice. The key is to increase your ability to function more normally by gradually increasing your tolerance for normal movements involving your back.
Returning to work
Returning to work is an extremely important aspect of recovering from an episode of back pain. You can speak to your employer and your company’s occupational health department to review the physical requirements of your job and see if any of these can be modified. If you’ve gone back to work full-time and are finding it hard to manage, you may try working shorter hours and slowly increase the time as you recover.
Returning to sport and leisure activities
If you’re involved in physical activities for fitness and recreation, you’ll need to develop a plan for your recovery. If you’ve been inactive because of your symptoms, it’s likely that you’ve lost strength and will need to return at a lower level of function. That can be frustrating and the pain that comes from exercising weak muscles can be frightening. So it’s important that you build up your abilities slowly using a training program.
If you play on a team, you need to develop a plan based on your physical recovery:
- Consider whether you can play your usual position or if it might be best for you to change and play in a position where there is less physical stress on the back.
- You may decide to play for only part of the game and then increase your time in the games ahead.
- Remember that when you’re playing, your team members may not be thinking about your comfort and will expect you to play at your usual level! Explain the situation and if the game is that important and you are not up to your usual standard, sit it out. It’s up to you to follow through and stay with the plan to protect your back.
- Finally, if your participation remains a major reason for your back pain, you may have to place your health and well-being above everything else. It may be time to give up team or contact sport and look for something else which you can enjoy and that will keep you physically active.