Over 80% of the population will suffer from lower back pain in their lifetime. Back pain can come on suddenly and last for up to six weeks (called acute pain), due to a fall or heavy lifting. Back pain can also be chronic, lasting for over three months.
Shooting or stabbing pain with movement, lifting, or coughing
Sciatica or pain that radiates down your leg, with or without tingling and numbness
Limited flexibility or loss of range of motion in the back
The most common cause of lower back pain is a torn or pulled muscle and/or ligament. A strain occurs when a muscle is stretched too far and tears, damaging the muscle itself. Sprains happen when overstretching and tearing affects ligaments, which connect the bones together.
Common causes of sprain and strain of the lower back include:
Lifting an object that is too heavy
Lifting something improperly or awkwardly
Sudden movements that place too much stress on the low back, such as a fall
Poor posture, where pain occurs over a period of time
Sports injuries, especially in sports that involve twisting and contact
Back pain can often develop without a trigger or cause, and can be linked to common conditions or structural problems including:
Lumbar Herniated Disc
The jelly-like centre of a lumbar disc can break through the outer layer and compress a nearby nerve root causing an inflammatory response and pain radiating down the leg.
Degenerative Disc Disease
As the discs age over time, they lose their water content and wear down. Consequently, they cannot resist forces and transfers loads to the disc wall that may develop tears causing pain and disc herniation. The disc can also collapse and contribute to stenosis.
Facet Joint Dysfunction
There are two facet joints behind each disc that join two vertebrae in the lumbar spine. These joints have cartilage between the bones and are surrounded by ligaments, which contain many nerves.
Through degeneration or excessive loading, these joints can cause pain on its own or in conjunction with disc pain.
This condition occurs when one vertebra slips over the adjacent one. The most common type is secondary to a defect or fracture of the pars (between the facet joints) or mechanical instability of the facet joints (degenerative).
The pain can be caused by joint instability (back) or compression of the nerves (leg).
This condition results from wear and tear of the facet joints. It causes pain, inflammation, instability, and stenosis to a variable degree, and can occur at a single level or multiple levels of the lower spine.
Spinal osteoarthritis is associated with aging and progresses over time. It is also referred to as spondylosis or degenerative joint disease.
Curvature of the Spine
This includes scoliosis or kyphosis. The deformity may be associated with lower back pain if it leads to the breakdown of the discs, facet joints, or stenosis.
Management of the above conditions has been proven to be helpful in relieving pain, speeding up recovery, and rehabilitating chronic issues. Treatment involves education, self-care management, exercise therapy, and manual therapy and spinal manipulation are commonly used by a registered physiotherapist to treat back pain.
Other treatments such as acupuncture, soft tissue release and massage therapy can also help. A registered physiotherapist can conduct a skilled assessment and examination of the spine and recommend the appropriate treatment. For most back pain issues, an x-ray and other imaging is not required for management in the initial stages.
Most commonly a pulled muscle or ligament sprain is the cause of back pain. Other causes include injury to the disc causing herniation, an inflammed nerve or sciatica, arthritis of the joints and spinal stenosis. Many injuries occur from repeated hevy lifting or sudden awkward movements.
How do I prevent back pain?
Up to 80% of people will experience low back pain in their lives. There are many ways to prevent or minimize low back pain but the most impotant include regular exercise including strengthening of your abdominal and back muscles, maintaining a healthy weight, keeping good posture, and implementing good lifting techniques by bending at the knees and lifting with your legs,
When should I be worried about lower back pain?
Most back pain improves within a few weeks. You should consider seeking medical attention if your pain is not improving with typical home care or begins to get worse. If you begin to experience other symptoms such as numbness or tingling in the legs or feet, weakness or loss of function of your lower extremity, bladder issues, fever, or significant night time pain you should seek attention right away.
What are some techniques you use to treat back pain?
A physiotherapist can use a wide variety of ways to treat back pain. This includes 'hands on' or manual therapy to help joints and soft tissue move better, giving exercises specific to your problem to improve strength and flexibility, and using ultrasound and other electrotherapy equipment to reduce pain and swelling. To effectively treat back pain you need to understand what is causing it and how it may have began. Education and instruction on posture, proper lifting techniques, exercise, and general spinal care are also important ways to address back pain.
What is soft tissue release?
Soft tissue release is a form of treatment directed to muscles, tendons, ligaments and fascia that have deveolped restrictions and adhesions through injury or strain. Soft tissue release relaxes muscle, and improves blood and lymphatic circulation to help reduce restrictions and improve mobility.
What is the most effective way to treat lower back pain?
Most low back pain improves within a few weeks of home treatment. Acute back pain can be helped with over-the-counter medication, use of heat or ice, gentle stretching exercises, and activity modification. Stop activity that aggravates the pain but don't avoid activity altogether. Find positions that help your pain but avoid prologed static positions. If your pain does not improve or worsens you should seek medical attentiion.
How do you treat upper back pain?
Upper back pain is usually the result of sitting to long especially in poor posture. This causes excessive strain to your muscles, ligaments, and joints. Upper back pain can be significantly reduced by sitting in good posture with your chin tucked in, chest up and forward, and shoulder blades gently squeezed together. Avoid sitting for long periods of time and if your pain persists, see a physiotherapist who can help you resolve your problem.