Low Back Pain
Pain in the lower back is extremely common and is responsible for a large number of visits to health professionals. It is estimated that 70-90% of Australians will suffer from lower back pain at some point in their lives. As common as low back pain is however, it is avoidable in most cases and not normal.
Back pain is predominantly musculoskeletal in cause and can relate to the bones, joints, connective tissue, muscles and nerves of the back. Low back pain can be referred to as acute onset or gradual onset. It is normally a result of a sudden/traumatic injury or a sustained over-stress injury.
A traumatic injury can involve an incident where a person is bending forwards awkwardly to pick up a heavy load and experience a sudden onset of pain. Pain that is of gradual onset can be related to sitting in an improper posture in a new chair over a period of months. In these cases, postural fatigue creates micro trauma which accumulates and overloads certain structures in the back, resulting in pain.
Common causes of low back pain are listed below:
- Disc bugle/ herniation
- Back muscle strain
- Ligament sprain
- Non specific low back pain
- Systemic conditions
Physiotherapists specialise in the assessment and treatment of low back pain as well as many other injuries. During an initial consult, your physiotherapist will ask you a wide range of questions which all assist in the identification and classification of your low back pain. You may then be asked to perform a range of movements of your lower back to identify if any of these movements or postures aggravate your pain. Your physiotherapist may then feel along your spine, muscles and ligaments in your back to further narrow down your source of pain.
Using all this gathered information, your physiotherapist will be able to diagnose the cause of your low back pain, and furthermore devise a treatment plan for you.
Treatment for low back pain needs to be individualised and can usually be divided up into 4 phases.
- Pain relief and protection
Managing pain is very important in the initial stages of treatment. Your physiotherapist you assist in reducing pain and inflammation using a range of techniques tailored to you. Examples include: soft tissue massage, taping of your lower back and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications. Exercises to relieve pain may also be prescribed.
- Restoring movement and strength
Once your pain is reduced, it is important to regain normal movement of your back and strength. This is achieved by completing specific exercises prescribed by your physiotherapist.
- Restoring full function
If your low back pain has been restricting you from participating in activities, hobbies or work, then the next stage of rehabilitation involves restoring your back’s function to allow you to return to these activities. This aspect of rehabilitation is very goal specific.
- Preventing recurrence
If not rehabilitated properly, the likelihood of your low back pain recurring is increased. To reduce the chance of recurrence it is very important that you move thoroughly through all phases of rehabilitation and also complete specific exercises to prevent recurrence. Clinical pilates has also been shown to reduce recurrence.
Low back pain is very common, however it is not normal. If you are experiencing low back pain then please feel free to come in for a comprehensive assessment with one of our physiotherapists.
Blog by Alice Smith (Physiotherapist)