To recover from back pain is often a long journey of trial and error. Subtle improvements may hold clues about which interventions work. You may miss these motivating clues if you don’t systematically track. Also, the more precise insight you can provide your therapist with, the better able she is to help you.
As human beings we are constantly distracted. So, remembering in detail how your symptoms manifested themselves over the past few weeks is often challenging. Even when you think you remember, your brain will actually have filled in a lot of “blanks”. This forms the distorted picture you call “reality”. To capture the nuanced details of your recovery or changing symptoms, you therefore need to write down what you are experiencing. You need to track.
But what is all this data supposed to be used for? Firstly, the data will help you in your Safe Intelligent Experimentation process. I.e. it will inform you whether the intervention you are trying is working, and may provide clues of what to try next. See the article, How to discover your own back pain solutions and claim your life back!
Secondly, the more accurately you can communicate trends in your recovery process, the better your therapist can help you. Therapists normally ask “how have you been since our last appointment 2 weeks ago”. If all you can produce is highlights of the last 2 days freshest in your mind, you are not giving her optimal insight. Without optimal insight, her support of your recovery process will also be sub-optimal. I am not saying you should bore her with every little detail. Instead an accurate summary of key trends covering the entire period since last visit is what is needed.
You will unlikely recover from back pain in a linear fashion. It’s more like “two steps forward and one back”. If you are not systematically tracking, a temporary set-back could be misinterpreted as regression. And when you are improving it often manifests itself in subtle baby steps. Again, this could be missed if you don’t systematically look at a fuller picture over time. Sometimes it’s not even about improvements or regression. It’s just a change in the way symptoms manifest themselves. This too can be important information for your therapist.
Carol Drummond, Physiotherapist at Response Physiotherapy, Nottingham, United Kingdom, asks her clients to track how they are feeling on a 24 hour basis. Morning, midday and evening/night. “The things for clients to look for are stiffness, swelling, pain, discomfort, reduced/increased mobility, etc. In terms of pain, I am interested in a description of the type of pain. Does it feel like someone is sticking a needle in you? Or is it more like a pounding pain? Generally, subjective information provided by the client is very important in terms of gaining as accurate an understanding of the client’s condition as possible.”
Tracking becomes easier as you become more body aware. Richard Moore, founder of Moore Osteopathy in Nottingham, UK, says, “When patients first come to me they don’t have much insight into the nature of their back pain. When I ask them how they have been, the initial responses are very vague. As they learn more about their bodies their narrative becomes more precise and specific.”
Tracking may sound tedious, but it doesn’t have to be. In fact, the easier you can make it the more likely you are to keep up with it. There are apps out there that can help you, if that appeals to you. But you need to make sure whatever app you choose is fit for your specific purpose. If you don’t find a suitable app, or technology just isn’t your thing, then use a good old fashioned note pad. I have used both apps and note pads for tracking my own back pain recovery, and they both work very well!
The trick is to make tracking a seamless part of your daily routine. This could include just a few sentences of how you are feeling at various times during the day/night. Once you look back over these records you will see trends. Observing these trends of recovery, no matter how subtle they may be, can be motivating and inspiring.
- What you think you are experiencing and what you actually experience are often two different things. Tracking tells you the truth.
- The more accurate data you give your therapist, the better and quicker s/he can help you recover from back pain.
- Making tracking as easy as possible exponentially increases the likelihood of you keeping up with it.
If you are suffering from back pain, why not discover your own back pain solutions and claim your life back?
If you have already made a lot of progress, or become pain free, why not inspire others by sharing your story?
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