What is low back pain and how does it occur?
At least 80% of the population will experience acute low back pain in their lifetime. This explains why back pain is one of the most commonly treated injuries in our clinic.
The pain you experience in your back may be in the center of the back, to one or both sides, or even move down your leg. The most common symptoms experienced include sharp pains, dull aches or shooting pain but may include other symptoms such as pins and needles or numbness. Your pain may always be there or it may come and go depending on certain movements.
There can be many different triggers that may have caused your pain, some are known, some are unknown. You may have increased your activity levels in a short period of time such as taking a long run with no recent activity, lifted a heavy object awkwardly or sat for too long such as a long holiday car trip.
Pain in the lower back can often feel more intense than other areas of the body due to the demands placed on the back for all of our day to day movements.
Episodes of acute low back pain are typically caused by excessive stresses placed on the soft tissue structures of your back which may include discs, ligaments and muscles. For most people with back pain (around 90%) however, the cause of their pain cannot be attributed to any specific underlying problem or condition. This is termed non-specific low back pain.
What are the best ways you can manage your low back pain?
The good news is that around 90% of people with acute low back pain recover within 4 - 6 weeks with the correct management and exercise.
Contrary to common belief, lying in bed or cutting back on activity is not always helpful. It has been found that people who remain as active as possible get better faster.
Certain stretches can help ease your back pain but it is best to check with your treating Physio for the best stretches to manage your type of back pain.
Heat can often be a useful tool to help ease your symptoms. Whether it be a wheat bag, hot water bottle or even a hot shower, the heat from these sources can help to relax muscle spasm. Muscle spasm can often be a key factor in what can contribute to your back pain.
You may also need to take some anti-inflammatories or painkillers such as Paracetamol to help you through this initial period. It is often best to check with your doctor first, if you are unsure which medications you can take.
When should I involve my Physiotherapist?
As soon as you feel you are able to move sufficiently and comfortably to leave the house, you can come in to visit your Physio. Physiotherapy can utilize tools such as hands on treatment, dry needling and exercise therapy to help you reduce pain, regain your movement and enable you to return to all the activities you want to be doing.
Should I have any scans done?
Most people with acute low back pain do not need imaging performed. X-rays or other imaging techniques do not typically provide any useful information that has an effect on treatment. Imaging is also not always an accurate predictor in determining who will get back problems, who has back problems or even sometimes identifying what the actual problem is. It is not good for your health to have too many x-rays. Your physiotherapist or doctor may send you off for scans at a later date if your symptoms are becoming worse or there are some concerning features involved with your back pain.
Disclaimer: This is not medical advice and is used for educational purposes only. If you are having pain or health related complaints, please seek out a licensed healthcare professional.