From our patient letter  "Pain Free News"

Last updated on April 5, 2024

The ancient Romans were renowned for their sophisticated culture.

But they were missing one tiny thing. A concept that would have completely revolutionised their civilization. They didn't have a zero.

The Roman number system had no nought. You wouldn't think that the representation of nothing could be important. Do you lose anything if nothing is missing?

I'm not a mathematician, but it turns out you do. Any maths beyond simply counting on your fingers pretty much needs the concept of zero to function.

However, the value of "the nothing that is" was far from obvious. It remained obscure until 628 AD when the Indian mathematician and astronomer Brahmagupta provided rules for arithmetic involving zero and negative numbers. And another eight hundred years passed before the use of nought spread through the Western world.

Now, mathematics embraces zero, but there is another field where the significance of nothing is still waiting to be established.

The Surprising Cause of Back Pain

Most patients with back pain say they didn't do anything to cause it. So doing nothing is one of the biggest causes for musculoskeletal injuries. It's so common there's even an acronym for it: NAR (no apparent reason).

But when there's no clear physical injury behind the pain, people tend to think it's weird or not quite right. There's a big misunderstanding here.

We believe that we can only get hurt by doing something, such as:

  • Lifting a heavy object
  • Engaging in excessive exercise

So, when lounging on a sofa or otherwise resting, we feel safe from harm. This assumption is incorrect. Contrary to popular belief, the absence of physical activity can actually lead to injury and pain.

The Body's Constant Adjustments

Outside of our conscious awareness, the body constantly adjusts its tension. When we move, we get looser; when we stay still, we get tighter. The strange thing is that while resting is mentally relaxing, it is physically stressful. The less we move, the more stressed our bodies become.

Activity is how we process stress. When we don't move enough, that stress lingers as physical tension causing stiffness and pain.

Avoiding back injuries is simple: don't do too much nothing!

Philip Hambly