If you know why low back pain happens, then you’re half way to avoiding a recurrence.  SO… why – if you know what causes low back pain – don’t you just do all the things you need to in order to avoid a recurrence and live happily ever after?

The main reason for most people is that when your pain is at its worst your motivation is high, and when the pain eases – motivation drops and you return to your old habits… the result; another bout of low back pain in many cases (a past episode of low back pain is the single biggest predictor of future low back pain).  See other posts on causes of low back pain and how pain works.  The number one reason I see the same patients for the same problems every few months or years is that they stop doing their exercises, go back to their old posture, gain weight again etc.  In short – they go back to their old ways.  A short lesson on motivation…

Motivation comes in waves; sometimes it’s high, and sometimes it’s low.  As a comparison, think about exercise and healthy eating – two good habits.  On the stroke of midnight at the beginning of a New Year, many people commit to a healthier lifestyle; motivation is high.  Two weeks later, when you’re finishing a long day at work and should be going to the gym but your tired and hungry, motivation is low – you stop at the Indian takeaway on the way home, consuming a day’s worth of calories in one meal, having sat all day and all evening.  It’s hard to keep your motivation up at a peak all the time.

The answer?  Try to bottle your motivation when it’s at its highest and keep using that for months/years whenever your old habits threaten to creep back in.  How?  Read on…

Have someone take a head and shoulder picture of you, or easier still you can take it yourself using a webcam or mobile device.  But this is not to be a smiley picture. Imagine your low back pain at its worst, now allow those feelings to appear on your face.  It might be a frown, it might be a grimace, it might be tears.  Get the expression right in the mirror.  Then take the picture.

Now, repeat the process.  Except this time imagine your back is fantastic, that you have every confidence in it and can do all the things you’d love to do.  Perhaps it’s arms in the air celebrating; or eyes closed smiling serenely? Practise in the mirror again.  Then take the picture.

You guessed it – you’re going to use these pictures to remind you what you’re trying to avoid and achieve in the future.

If you think this is a silly waste of your time, then remind yourself that the vast majority of people don’t manage to change their habits.  Take it from me – you NEED to do this.  This motivation boosting approach is absolutely critical to your success.  If you don’t do it, I’d put your chances of successfully avoiding future low back pain at less than 1 in 5.

Now, get your best grimace and best happy face ready and take the pictures!  You could print the photos off and pin them up somewhere as a reminder, or put them on your smart phone and have them appear alternately as your wallpaper.  How else can you think of using these pictures to keep you motivated?  Please leave a comment with your thoughts, and if you can help me in my quest to help a million people get a better back, I’d love your help.  Whether it’s forwarding a link to this post to friends or anything else you can think of – I’d appreciate it.

Here’s to a better back

Gavin