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Low Back Pain

Low back pain is the most common complaint experienced by the general population.

What is it?

  • A staggering 80-90% of the population experience low back pain at some point during their lifetime.
  • Back pain can also refer pain into the buttocks, legs and feet, this is know as referred pain
  • There are many structures that may be affected such as the
    • Vertebrae
    • Disc
    • Facet joint
    • Sacro-iliac joint
    • Nerves
  • 98% of low back pain episodes will resolve 100%. There are a very few number of specific pathologies that will ever require interventional management such as surgery
  • Now a days we consider low back pain episodes similiar to a common cold. We all experience them and we get over them almost 100% of the time.

What do I look for?

  • Sharp/catching pain or ache at the base of the spine/ waist area
  • Referred pain into the buttocks or the leg and this can even extend as far as your toes
  • Difficulty bending over or putting on your pants and shoes
  • Pain in your back after sitting at your desk for a prolonged period. Your posture plays a pivotal role

What causes it?

  • Poor posture
  • Collisions or falls such as with car accidents, horse riding or contact sports
  • Poor biomechanics and overloading
  • Poor functional techniques
  • Age

What can I do?

  • Dont panic or be fearful- the first thing is to stay calm. Remember that you will get better. Like symptoms of a cold, you may have pain and discomfort for a few days, but it will go away.
  • Use over the counter paracetamol or ibuprofen for a day or two to help you manage the pain.
  • Use heat to help alleviate symptoms
  • Don’t stay in bed. The literature tells us convincingly that prolonged bed rest will not help you. Don’t sit too long, don’t stand too long and stay moving gently within your comfort levels. Gentle movement- move as best you can.
  • When you feel pain, this is not a sign of things getting worse. It is just the sensitised soft tissue getting simulated. This is very similar to pushing on a bruise- it hurts, but its not going to get any worse.
  • Remember to breath, holding your breath can increase the pressure through your sensitised soft tissues which leads to more pain.

When do I see the therapist?

  • Therapists can provide accurate diagnosis and use a range of techniques to settle down your symptoms.  They can correct poor biomechanics and provide you with an appropriate rehabilitation program.
  • Some manual treatment techniques may be required initially, however the best management of low back pain is a graduated exercise and strengthening program.
  • Advice and re-assurance cannot be underestimated and your health professional are experts in dealing with low back pain

Braces and supports

There are a large number of options that can help in relieving symptoms of low back pain and that can be used in the rehab management of your problem. There are braces and supports, postural cushion supports, creams and more. Your therapist may often refer you to get a self mobilising tool which you can use yourself to manage your problem.

Do I see my doctor?

If symptoms persist, your therapist will advise when you need to see your doctor

This video is an excellent summary of how to approach Low Back pain when you get it.

Once you start feeling better move more. Your therapist will be able to give you a guided return to activity program if you are unsure.