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Lower back pain: Rule of 10s

Lower back and sciatic leg pain are symptoms that I see every week. When the pain is arising from discs in the lower back, as it often is, then the first thing you need to be doing is avoiding activities that irritate the disc. The easiest way to encapsulate these principles is in a few ’10 minute’ rules.

A story.

I love the story of Alberto. An elderly retired man of European origin who only came along because his daughter insisted. Although we speak different languages I was able to ascertain that Alberto had pain in his lower leg that had ‘been there forever!’

‘Don’t bother trying to fix that, it will never go away’ I was assured. Alberto’s pain was due to irritation in his L5 nerve in his lower back, but he had never suspected so because his back felt just fine.

Thanks more, I believe, to these 10 minute rules that he applied faithfully rather than to my skilful manipulation, slowly but surely his leg pain disappeared. Now, years on, when I see him occasionally I ask ‘How is the leg?’ ‘Oh fine, all gone’ is the reply I get in the few English words we share.

Disc irritation in the lower back may cause pain in the back or the groin or legs or feet or all of the above. It takes some skilled assessment to determine whether your pain is arising from your back – especially if the pain is only in your ankle and nowhere else. But when it is, then these 10 minute rules applied faithfully to complement treatment will result in improvement in symptoms.

Rule 1: Avoid sitting for longer than 10 minutes.

Sitting places your vertebral discs in a posture that is inefficient and stressful. In other words when you sit you are putting an already injured disc under stress. This makes it even angrier. So if you sit, sit well, not in a deep lounge but on an upright chair like a dining chair. Even then, don’t sit for long.

The rule of 10s here is ‘Don’t sit for more than 10 minutes without moving’.

Rule 2: Move.

Walk around. Walking puts your spine in a very efficient posture and movement helps relax the muscles that might be spasming. Most people find that once they ‘get going’ they get some relief.

The rule of 10s here is ‘walk for 5-10 minutes at a time’.

If you are in lots of pain do this often, like every hour. If you are dealing with a long-term pain, make sure you do this a few times a day. Now note although you may start to feel better, walking for 50 minutes will not make you feel even better. Stick to 10 minutes at a time.Walking for long periods may end up irritating the inflammation making it worse, so short walks often is much better.

Rule 3: Observe these rules for 10 days.

The rule of 10s here is: ‘Do this faithfully for 10 days’.

What you are dealing with in most cases is inflammation around discs. Now inflammation does not disappear instantly. Instead it goes down gradually. In other words, if you don’t feel better after applying these principles for two days, I’m not surprised. Often the inflammation will have to settle past a certain threshold before you start to feel any relief. This may be day five or six.

Rule 4: Observe these rules for 10 days.

This is not a typo!

The reason I write this rule for a second time is for those of you who are getting good results. It goes something like this.

‘Hey. I actually feel better and it’s only day five! You little beauty! I will be able to resume that 321-hour game of Minecraft that I have put on hold because I have not been able to sit for long. Now I will sit for two hours at a time.’

If your thing is Minecraft, or internet surfing, or computer work, or gardening for hours, or golf for hours then think again. Pain relief is just the beginning. Once the pain in your back or leg or wherever has settled, now your body has to get used to functioning normally. It needs to get used to operating without the pain. So you need to keep walking and avoiding prolonged sitting for longer than you think you need to. Seven days of feeling very good should do it. After these seven days you can be confident that when you resume Minecraft, sitting for too long, you will not end up where you started. If you resume hours of gardening after two pain-free days then you may have to start all over again.

When do I seek treatment?

If you are dealing with a pain that you have had repeatedly in the past then definitely get a treatment or two from your Myotherapist once you are feeling better. YES once you are feeling better.

This is because unbeknownst to you, once your pain has gone the body will most likely continue with some subtle restrictions that simply ‘lay in wait’ and predispose your back to ‘going again’ more easily than it should. I see people all the time with reoccurring back pain because they ‘just have a bad back’ ever since that episode way back when. I have lost count of the number of patients whose ‘forever’ bad backs I have FIXED.

Alternatively, if you have faithfully stuck to these rules for 10 days and see no change, seek treatment. Often after careful assessment and the addition of one or two more specific exercises, it will get  you feeling better.

 

Keep walking!

Timothy King – Myotherapist.

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