Does your back pain cause you mental stress? Do you stress about the activities you may no longer be able to do if your back pain continues to get worse? Do you imagine a day when you can barely get out of bed or when you’ll have to walk hunched over because you can’t straighten up? Do you search online to see what you’re headed for if your sore back doesn’t improve? These stressful thoughts are not helping you get better, so stop stressing about your back!
If you can’t control your compulsion to search on the Internet, try to avoid websites that offer nothing but worst-case scenarios. Websites that recommend drug-based treatments or surgical solutions for your back pain are typically designed to increase your anxiety surrounding your back so that you will panic and buy their products.
Most importantly, stop doing those things that you know are causing your back to hurt more. For example, if your back always aches when you do a certain exercise, say when you jog, try to limit the amount of time you spend jogging while you introduce other strategies to help realign your body and improve the health of your musculoskeletal system.
This was a hard lesson for my client Bill who came to me for help with his back pain. He told me that his back hurt whenever he played basketball or did ab crunches, so I recommended that he give up the basketball and crunches—just for a brief period while we addressed his back issues. A few weeks into the program, Bill wasn’t getting any better. It turned out Bill was still playing basketball and doing those crunches. Eventually he admitted that he was afraid that if he didn’t do his regular activities—even for a few weeks—he would put on weight.
That’s when we had a heart to heart about his priorities. Was he more interested in curing his back pain so he could enjoy the activities he loves (and keep weight off) for the rest of his life, or was he more concerned about possibly gaining a couple pounds until he resumed his activities pain-free? Ultimately Bill decided that in the long run, having a healthy back would be more helpful in keeping his weight down for the long-term, so he skipped the activities he knew were harmful for his back and focused on his program. To his surprise, he didn’t gain a single pound, and he was back to playing basketball and doing his gym routine without pain sooner than he expected.
I have worked with a lot of clients who worry about all the things they might not be able to do in the future if their back pain persists. What if I can no longer go hiking? What if I can’t play tennis anymore? What if I can’t take my dog for a walk? If you find yourself fretting about the future, focus instead on what you can do now to help your problem, like sticking to your corrective exercise program. Taking action to improve your back pain puts you in control of the problem rather than feeling victimized by it. And that simple attitude adjustment can go a long way in boosting your mood, improving your outlook, and ultimately easing your pain.