The Source of Your Back Pain

Back pain can be the result of several different issues. Having a better understanding of why your back hurts can help improve your effectiveness in handling your particular pain. And, having enough understanding about your pain reduces anxiety, which by itself, can be a source of pain.

One source of back pain can be related to an activity that involves Repeated Movements. We are particularly vulnerable if the repeated movements are associated with an activity that we do infrequently. Have you ever gone out to play a full round of golf on 2 consecutive days for the 1st time of the season? This can be the source of mechanical back pain that can irritate the joints of the spine, muscles or ligaments. The good news is that there are plenty of effective things we can do that prevent or handle our back pain.


Great athletes, musicians, and fine artists all know that success relies on developing adequate conditioning. The body’s tissues need time to develop, adapt and accommodate increased stresses, loads and relatively longer periods of activity time then when they are “off season.” Those of us who don’t see ourselves as one of these “professionals,” are even more vulnerable to the pains of strains and sprains of the spine. The key factor is preparation, and conditioning our bodies to be ready for the activities we want to enjoy.


Whether it’s golfing, gardening or hiking, our bodies need adequate time to adapt. When we start out with activity and exercise slowly, and build them up gradually over time, our bodies adapt by getting stronger. Our muscles get stronger, our ligaments get tougher, our bones get denser and our heart and lungs get more efficient.


If you have been sedentary, select an activity that you can easily build up to a minimum of 30 minutes duration, such as walking. This helps to build a general base from which to build on. Our bodies adapt optimally when we perform exercises and activities that most closely resemble the activity we are preparing to participate in. So if you want to do some strenuous hikes early in the season, ensure that you are including activity that involves stepping up and stepping down. The stationary bike or spinning can help in developing your base, but it doesn’t simulate the activity that you really want to perform. Likewise, if you’re going to be gardening, shoveling and raking, or using a chainsaw, it will be helpful to be exercising those muscles in your arms and shoulders and torso. However, do select some variety in your exercise and activity as part of your conditioning plan. Doing only one activity, for example, spinning, can overly stress selected muscles and joints, while causing other muscles to lose their normal length and flexibility.


Staying relatively active throughout the year reduces large ups and downs in our body’s condition and readiness to participate in activities and exercise. The winter months can be a particular challenge in New England and the northern states. If you enjoy skiing, snowshoeing or skating, then you can maintain your strength and endurance if you are active in the fall. Some people split their own wood simply to keep them strong and invigorated, as a preference to joining a gym. There are plenty of options to adequately exercise within your own home. But certainly a gym or exercise class can provide support and a connection for those who feel best in that environment. Most of all, choose activity that gives meaning to your life. Studies that look at people who live the longest are not necessarily those people considered to be highly athletic through their life. Rather, they have remained active through their life with activity often as fundamental as tending gardens. So find the activity that works for you and put the time aside for it. You’ll be happier and healthier for it!

Betsy Maislen poses with her husband Bill at the summit of Mt. Moosilauke after recovering from a year of persistent back pain!


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