I recently listened to this BBC Radio 4 programme about back pain. Back pain is on the increase in western societies and is the leading cause of ill health and days off work , but why? Researchers have looked at the incidence of back pain in Germany before and after re-unification. Before there was 10% less reported back pain in East Germany than in West Germany but after re-unification the east caught up with the west. Reported back pain increased but not as a disease in terms of disc problems, etc. So what on earth was going on?
Media input in the west talks about how prevelent back pain is, how it is a leading and acceptable cause of disibility and ill health.
The culture around us dictates what happens. The researchers sited Dan a man in his 20's who was very active running, skiing, playing golf. He also injured himself playing football but recovered from that. He was having a busy time in his life changing jobs and moving house and then he started to have back problems. He would ski or play golf and "expect" to have a 3 week period of back pain afterwards. An MRI scan showed a small bulge in a disc but nothing major to account for the symptoms he was experiencing. He was becoming fearful and expecting pain every time he exercised.
I have helped people in similar situations including myself where every activity produces a reaction and almost an expectation that it is going to hurt. The Alexander Technique gives you the confidence to do things that you thought you couldn't do, so you no longer expect a particular activity to cause pain. I encourage and teach people to move in a different way, using their joints and spine correctly so they suddenly find that they have done something and miraculously no pain ensued. You now have control of your body and the way it reacts to potentially painful situations.
Dan in the programme was referred to a pain reprocessing therapy in the USA. Its based on the premiss that people can learn chronic pain. The injury gets better but they are still experiencing pain. People are taught a new view of pain that the pain does not reflect the problems in the body.
For example a sprained ankle hurts every time we walk on it. The person with back pain may not experience pain all the time. There is a fear of pain. Pain experienced can be a result of individual beliefs and expectations as well as cultural back grounds. There is often the belief that back pain runs in families, but does it? Is it down to our expectations and fears? I think to some degree it is and we can unlearn some of these reactions.