Physiotherapy for Low Back Pain
Low back pain affects up to 80% of people at some time in their lives. A common and debilitating injury, low back pain accounts for more disability and sick leave than any other medical condition.
What can cause low back pain? Low back pain can arise from numerous structures in the lumbar spine including the ligaments, muscles and vertebrae. The most common causes however are damage to the intervertebral discs (the cartilaginous shock absorbers in the spine between the vertebrae) or facet joints (the joints between vertebrae on either side of the spine).
Excessive bending, lifting or twisting movements as repetitive movements can cause facet joint sprains. Disc injuries usually occur with activities such as forward bending, sitting and lifting (particularly when combined with twisting). Usually injury is caused by repeated aggravating activities affecting the disc however, occasionally a simple movement such as picking a box off the floor will also cause injury. Other possible injuries include stress fractures, spondylolisthesis (slipping of one vertebra on another) or spinal stenosis (narrowing of the spinal canal).
Is it preventable? Taking care of your back can help avoid low back pain. Good ways to reduce load bearing on your spine include maintaining your posture by sitting and standing up straight and keep within a healthy weight range. Whether working at a desk or reading in bed, it is important to ensure your environment is set up adequately to enable you to attain good posture. Sitting on a chair with a high back with use of a lumbar support, ensuring your chair height keeps your elbows at the level of your workstation are great strategies.
When regularly reaching or twisting, keep the items used most frequently within easy reach. It is important that you remember to take regular breaks from sitting about every 30 minutes. When sleeping, it is best to avoid sleeping on your stomach, as it can increase your lumbar curve due to the download pull from the weight of your stomach. Putting a pillow under your knees can reduce lower back stress, particularly if you sleep on your back. T
he ideal sleeping position is on your side with your knees slightly bent and a pillow between them, as this minimizes any stress or tension on the spine. It is important also to use correct lifting technique. No matter how heavy the object, bend at your knees and keep your back straight to minimize the load on your intervertebral discs. A large percentage of back problems are often caused as a result of weakness in the back and abdominal muscles. To prevent initial and recurrent low back pain episodes, perform regular back exercises, in particular targetting deep abdominal muscles.
How can physiotherapy help? Should any problems arise with your low back, physiotherapy can resolve your problems within a few treatments in a lot of cases, using techniques to increase range of motion, reduce muscle spasm, and of course relieve pain. In addition, we can prescribe a home program to improve flexibility and increase core stability, particularly targeting the deep abdominal muscle – transversus abdominus. Studies have shown that an effective core stability program can prevent recurrent episodes of low back pain by up to 50%. If your aim is to carry on life without fear of recurring problems, then a physiotherapist can provide you with a rehabilitation program suited to your particular issue.
Randall Drickze is a Physiotherapist. Randall’s passion is working with musculoskeletal conditions. He brings with him an enthusiastic, caring and knowledgeable approach to treating all musculoskeletal problems, from acute and chronic back and neck pain, as well as all sporting and work related injuries.