7 Reasons Why Your Back Pain Returns

Over 80%  of people just like you will experience low back pain (LBP) at some point in their lives.  Unfortunately for many people, LBP becomes a recurrent condition because they think that once the pain goes away, they consider themselves healed… and then a few months later; WHAMOO! It comes back – with each episode becoming worse.

Again, you wait for the pain to go away and only a few weeks later or when you decide it’s okay to return to your normal active lifestyle, your LBP comes back… but now it’s NOT going away as fast as it once did.

You begin to get increasingly frustrated each time the pain returns and now you worry about it happening just about every day.  You now begin to wonder if there is something more serious going on in your spine. You no longer feel safe with your workouts and you can’t enjoy the active lifestyle that you once had because either you physically can’t do those things anymore or you worry that if you do, you’re are afraid it will cause your low back pain to return. This downward spiral may continue for many years leaving you with living a life with chronic LBP or worse, taking daily pain pills.

So, why does the pain go away making it seem like you have healed properly and then it comes back?  Here are the 7 reasons we have come across most often in our 30+ years of combined practice treating athletes and active people:

1. You Sit Longer Than 20 Minutes

If you consider yourself a “desk jockey”, then this can be a major contributor to your reoccurring back pain. Sitting is currently considered as the “new smoking”.  As a matter of fact, current research states that sitting for > 3 hours statically takes 22 minutes off your life. Yikes! Therefore, change your body position often, especially if you have to be in a physically stressful position like sitting.   Get up and walk around at least once an hour. Make it a habit by taking a standing/stretching break every 20 minutes. You can even set an alarm or your phone/ computer to help remind you.

2. You Rely Only On Time

This is by far the most common reason why your low back pain cycles on and off.  Many of our clients tell us how annoying and frustrating their reoccurring LBP is, yet they do nothing for it besides pain pills and the occasional ice or hot tub treatments.

We understand why a lot of people don’t do anything else. For one, Dr. Google provides so many options – making it confusing and scary to actually make a decision about what to do.  That is why we offer a free “Discovery Visit” to people just like you BEFORE they commit to us.  It’s a way for you to discover what is really going on with your back, discover what we can do to help you, and discover what options are available and work best for you.

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3. Your Past Treatment(s) Didn't Address the Underlying Cause

If you received some form of treatment(s) and the pain still comes back, there's a good chance that the treatment(s) you received (i.e. injections, medications, chiropractic, massage, acupuncture, physical therapy, etc.) only took care of your symptoms/pain for a short-term and didn't address the underlying reason for your pain – giving you a long-term benefit. It's the difference between constantly having to worry about it happening again and being able to enjoy the active lifestyle you deserve without worry.

4.You Stopped Doing Your Prescribed Exercises

Don’t worry. You are not alone if you fall into this category. Unfortunately, many people even while receiving good treatment, stop the treatment plan early, especially as soon as the pain has gone away. Then, a few months later you’re experiencing another low back "flare-up."  And this "flare-up" may have been avoided had you completed and progressed your treatment plan all the way through and not stopped just when the pain went away.  Remember, addressing the underlying issue is key!

A great physical therapist will design a specific treatment program to address the cause of your low back pain and will teach you how to continue and progress your stretches/exercises independently. What you do independently outside your treatment sessions will have a HUGE effect on your outcome.

5. You Progressed Your Activity Level Too Quickly

Another classic reason why your back pain may be coming back.  You start feeling a lot better, so you decide that a 5-mile run is ok to do...even though you haven't performed the same activity in a couple months.  Or you return to the gym...and you decide the "boot camp" class that was being offered that day was a good idea.  Or a friend convinces you to do a Spartan race or a free CrossFit class with them...your low back has been feeling much better than when you were walking around like Frankenstein so it's ok, right!?

You're probably laughing right now...not because the examples are that funny, but because you know you've been guilty of it.

We understand that when the pain starts to go away, you get excited to do the things you love doing again, but you have to make sure it all makes sense with regards to your treatment plan - both short and long-term.

6. You Lack Other Healthy Habits

You don't sleep well.  You're stressed.  You work too much.  You don't eat well.  You're overweight.  You don’t drink enough water. You're out of shape.  You’re posture sucks. You get the idea.

All those things play a role in your recovery and can affect your expected outcome - both amount of relief expected and the time it will take to get that relief.  If you can't get those things in control, the odds of a successful outcome decrease...it's that simple (and I know that simple doesn't mean easy).

7. You Exercise Through Pain

“No Pain, No Gain.” Really? An often-overlooked reality is the downside of continuing to perform exercises that are painful will automatically cause you to compensate your movements by utilizing other muscles that aren’t necessary meant to take up that much load when performing certain movements which may lead to further injuries. By not performing exercises in a pain free range, you’re basically not providing a healing environment for the injured tissue(s). Let’s try a quick example. Lightly tap your head with a hammer. Feel the pain? Now stop! Doesn’t that feel better? Now I know that was a little extreme, but we hope it made our message clear.

BONUS TIPS: What Can You Do?

1. Pilates With A Specialized Instructor

This is the 100-year-old tradition that if you do regularly, can really transform your health. Going to an instructor that either is a Physical Therapist or works with one, will be more beneficial to give you the right type of exercises and cuing.

Pilates is number one on our list of the most important things that anyone can do to prevent and treat low back pain.

And in case you were wondering, Pilates is a series of exercises designed to improve muscle tone and control for a stronger and healthier low back. Understand that it’s the latter (control) that is often missing from low back muscles and the root cause of most people’s pain and stiffness.

So, whether you join a class, work with our Pilates specialist one-on-one, or do these exercises every day on your own at home, you’ll steadily increase your muscle control, and with it, slowly decrease your muscle tension and pain. We recommend all of our private clients to do these exercises and go so far as to create personal plans for each of them.

2. Consult with a Sports Physical Therapist

There isn’t a faster way to END low back pain than by going to see a GOOD Physical Therapist that has the time to devote to you for hands-on work plus train you in the right types of exercises. Getting to see a hands-on specialist Physical Therapist means you’re going to get very fast access to care that will soothe and relax those tight aching muscles, loosen and lubricate stiff, stuck and painful joints, and strengthen your body so that you can go on doing the things that you love.

You can often leave a good Physical Therapist with concerns eased and physical pain reduced, inside 30-40 minutes.

3. Avoid Carrying Your …

4. Avoid Sleeping On Your…

5. Stretch Yourself At…

6. Take Frequent…

…Continued when you click the blue button below and claim your special report with 8 MORE top tips inside to ease low back pain... Click on the red button below.

We hope this article is able to help you make a better decision for your health and if you think a friend or family member would benefit from reading this (or needs  to read it), feel free to share it with them.

Enjoy!

Dr. Dawn Andalon, DPT

San Diego’s Leading Back Pain Specialist at Level4 Physical Therapy & Performance

Click Here To Get Your Free Back Pain Report »
Dawn Andalon, DPT, MTC, CPI

Dawn Andalon, DPT, MTC, CPI

Dr. Dawn Andalon is a physical therapist, educator, author, and co-founder of Level4 Physio-Wellness-Performance. She is known as a leading spine and women’s health specialist in the San Diego area.

Prior to living in Carlsbad, CA, she worked at Nike Headquarters in Portland, OR as a physical therapist and consultant. She has always enjoyed fitness and working with the athletic population as a former dancer and gymnast. Dawn has also completed certification through Polestar Pilates which she has implemented with elite and Olympic athletes, surfers, golf pros, and the weekend warrior to enhance their chosen sport. After having 2 kids she saw a need for more highly skilled programs for women who are struggling with common body struggles after having a baby so she went on to seek more training in Pelvic floor rehab and the female athlete through Herman & Wallace Institute. As a spine specialist with a Manual Therapy Certification from University of St. Augustine and Pilates background she has helped men and women of all ages stay active and feel their best.This combined with her passion to educate Pregnant and Postpartum women, she is now reaching a larger audience with her Postnatal rehab coaching series, helping to bridge the gap from labor/delivery back to an active lifestyle.
Dawn Andalon, DPT, MTC, CPI