News & Insights 12 October 2021

Movement helps back pain

Back pain is something that the majority of people experience at least once in their life, if not frequently. A third of adults in the UK report experiencing back pain each year, and of these, around 20% will consult their GP for pain management. This figure is likely to have risen over the course of the Covid-19 pandemic as many people have become more sedentary and had to work from home. But what if we told you this is not something everyone just has to put up with, and there are effective ways to reduce back pain at home without the need for a GP or painkillers?

For many people, back pain is a reason to avoid physical activity in fear of worsening the condition or causing a flare up. Traditionally, advice for joint or muscle pain has been to rest and avoid any movement until the pain has reduced. However, it has been shown that avoidance of physical activity may lead to more frequent episodes of pain and that resting your back for long periods of time could be what is making it worse.

Research has found that regular physical activity can reduce pain during an acute flare up as well as protecting from pain in the future. So, what does this mean? Well, if you are suffering from a painful lower back, it is actually often better to get up and move than stay still and wait for it to pass. This is why staying physically active is now one of the most consistent and widely recommended ways of managing chronic pain.

Ok, but how does it work? Early views on how physical activity helps relieve pain have focused on increasing the strength of surrounding muscles, and therefore providing extra support to the spine. While this idea is backed up by research, it doesn’t fully explain why being active can relieve back pain. Recently there has been growing evidence suggesting that physical activity leads to beneficial changes in the nervous system and the brain. Essentially, physical activity directly influences how we experience pain by decreasing our sensitivity to the stimulus (pain). This phenomenon is known as exercise-induced hypoalgesia, and you can read more about it here.

Physical activity is also known as a natural painkiller due to the release of chemicals within the brain, called endorphins. These chemicals not only help to reduce pain directly, but have the added benefit of improving mood, so you are less likely to notice low levels of pain. So not only will you be in less pain after getting up and moving about, but you’ll also feel happier.

Thankfully, there’s no specific type of activity needed to alleviate lower back pain, and it has been proven that intense exercise is no more effective than other forms of gentler physical activity. However, it is important to start slow and build up your activity levels, especially with a bad back, to avoid injury. Making a conscious effort to move more in your day-to-day life is enough to protect against lower back pain and walking around or stretching during a flare-up could be a first step in pain management before turning to over the counter medication. Most importantly, finding movement that you enjoy, which is something we focus on in KiActiv®, will ensure it becomes easier to manage your back pain and protect against it in the future, creating healthy habits which you can sustain long term. Remember…every move we make really does matter when it comes to our health!

The KiActiv® Team