As an Osteopath, I hear this reasonably often, to which I ask the question, ‘when does back pain become normal?’ Certainly there are some unique situations where chronic pain is unavoidable due to serious pathology or trauma suffered in a work or transport accident claim, but what I am referring to is the pain that has been ignored for many years, due to erroneous thinking that ‘it is just my usual back pain.’…

For starters, back pain is not normal. In the book, The Gift of Pain, we learn just how critical pain sensation is for human survival from the tragedy of the leprosy virus. Lepers cannot feel pain and therefore suffer the terrible disfiguration we associate with leprosy. For those that can feel pain, we must view it as a helpful message coming via our brain from the damaged tissue in our body, not a signal that should be squashed with pain medication. Pain should be viewed as a very helpful gift to let us know that something is going wrong in our body. We suggest getting a thorough diagnosis and treatment by an Osteopath, who is a primary care practitioner able to identify between different pain messages and ascertain the best mode of treatment, injury prevention exercises and pain relief strategies that do not just mask a pain.

To understand pain more, pain can only come from tissues in the body that have pain receptors and pain will be different depending on which structures the pain is coming from. There are sharp pains (fast nerve fibres) and dull, aching pain (slow nerve fibres). Cartilage has no pain receptors and even nerves have pain receptors, making nerve pain one of the worst ‘messages’ that we can receive. But back to the original point – pain that has ‘been there’ for years will have been desensitised by the brain and the locally affected tissues, so that it doesn’t feel as bad as it used to, while tissue damage is still going on, leaving a chronic, lingering niggle that was never addressed properly and will not go away on its own.

So, if this article has summarised an issue that you are battling with, then quite possibly a chat with one of our Osteopaths could be a real positive step towards better health and dealing with ongoing pain. Often, just getting a more accurate diagnosis of your problem can put your mind at ease and start a healing process that has been thwarted!