One of the things that we do know about back pain is that the number one factor that predicts whether you will have back pain is if you ever had back pain before. This, unfortunately, means that if you had a previous episode of back pain, it is very common to experience off and on symptoms in the future. This does not mean that your back has never healed, or that something has not been fixed, or out of place. It just means that a previous area of pain is more prone to become painful again. But why does this happen?
This is not an easy question to answer. There are definitely some times when a person does something (a movement, lift, or more activity than they are prepared for) that will cause an increase in symptoms. In these cases, we could say that the activity may have contributed to the new pain onset.
However, many people experience a new onset of back pain that seems to come out of nowhere, meaning they do not recall doing anything different that would have caused the pain. How can we explain this? Most of the time we can't and we really have to be satisfied with not knowing and just work through the symptoms and get back to recovery and living a normal life. However, as I have written about previously, pain is complex and many factors can contribute to a new onset.
Some things that have been shown to contribute to a "flare up" are sitting greater than 6 hours a day, job satisfaction, sleep quality, depression, stress, and anxiety. As you see, not everything is physical and because of this, you can feel good knowing that there is no new "injury" that you have to be concerned about or protect. This allows you to know that you can work on moving, staying active, and trying to get back to your normal activities.
It also means that you should reflect on how other things in life are going. Have you been really busy, staying up late, and not getting the sleep your body needs? Have there been things that you are stressed or worried about at home or work? Are you enjoying your work, moving enough, and getting some regular exercise? Managing all of these things well has been shown to minimize the risk of experiencing back pain in the first place and also decreasing the risk of reoccurrences.
If you need some help getting over a new flare up of pain or want to know some other things you can do to decrease the frequency of these flare ups, feel free to contact me.