Mr GB's story illustrates a common misconception about back pain.
At the beginning of 2016, GB noticed a pain in the middle of his back after playing football. He doesn't remember anything bad happening during the game. He could have twisted awkwardly or taken a knock. Anyway, the pain was there but not huge so GB assumed it would put itself right.
Ten months later and it's still there. But now it's got so bad that he can hardly sleep.
He wakes in the early hours in agony, and finds it impossible to drop off again.
When I examined him last week, I found his whole back, from his pelvis to the base of his neck, solid with muscular tension. Many joints in his spine were locked up and immobile.
I didn't say this to him at the time, but his back was a mess!
This left me confused. A localised acute injury had turned into a monster chronic back strain. For no apparent reason.
Time for some questions to Mr GB...
Me: "What physical activity do you do at the moment?"
GB: "I go to the gym twice a week to do exercises to strengthen my back."
Me: "What type of exercises do you do?"
GB: "Deadlifts, bench press, pull downs... stuff like that."
So the mystery was solved. My patient had been doing a heavy weight training programme for months in the hope of curing his "weak" back.
Sadly instead of resolving the problem, he had overloaded his already strained muscular system and made it much worse. Nothing against weights at all. But it is very easy to do too much when you are in pain.
So what's the way forward for Mr GB??
Numero uno: Stop the weights. I suggested instead a regime of exercises that reduce muscular tension.
Three or four sessions of treatment to remobilise his spine and de-stress his overloaded spinal muscles.
After that, he should be sleeping more soundly and able to enjoy his football again.
Back Pain, Pain Relief
Stronger But Weaker?
By Philip Hambly
From our patient letter the "Pain Free You"