Lower back pain is a common condition that many people suffer from every year. There are a number of different structures in the low back that can be effected, including discs, facet joints, nerves and nerve roots as they exit your spine through your intevertebral foramen. Muscle strains, ligament strains as well as irritation and degeneration of your joints can cause low back pain and stiffness.

Acute vs chronic low back pain

Lower back pains can either come from an acute injury, such as a once off event. This would include anything such as a car accident, a fall or lifting something too heavy for you. These types of low back pain can also be caused by cumulative trauma, which is low back pain that has been accumulating over time from poor posture or incorrect lifting techniques.

Chronic low back pain is low back pain that persists longer than 3 months. This can be due to a number of different factors, including underlying issues such as arthritis, degenerative disc disease, spinal stenosis or from constantly aggravating your lower back.

What are the symptoms of low back pain?

The symptoms of low back pain can vary greatly from person to person. Some people may only experience a dull aching pain, while others may have sharp shooting pains that radiate down their legs. Low back pain can also be accompanied by muscle spasms, stiffness and decreased range of motion. Some people will also suffer from sciatica, a condition where the large sciatic nerve is irritated, causing pain to radiate down your leg.

The role of a physiotherapist in managing low back pains

A physiotherapist will be able to assess your low back pain and help you to determine the source of your pain. Early intervention is vital to help you avoid the aggravating movements and start doing the right exercises. An accurate diagnosis and understanding your mechanism of injury is essential to tailor a treatment plan that is suitable for you. A good treatment will not only settle your symptoms but will help correct any imbalances or biomechanical issues. These need to be addressed so that you don’t keep reaggraavting your lower back or keep reinjuring yourself.

Your physiotherapist will also be able to provide you with education on how to self-manage your low back pain. This would include things such as exercises, ergonomics and activity modification advice. This is an important part of your rehabilitation as it helps you stay active and prevents your pain from returning.

Some treatment options may include:

  • Joint mobilisation & manipulation
  • Massage
  • Stretching
  • Electrotherapy e.g. ultrasound, TENS
  • Dry needling
  • Muscle energy techniques
  • Activity modification advice
  • Biomechanical correction
  • Ergonomic advice
  • Clinical Pilates
  • Hydrotherapy
  • Exercises to improve flexibility, strength, posture and core stability
  • Taping
  • Use of a sacroiliac belt or lumbar brace
  • Use of a lumbar roll for sitting
  • A gradual return to activity program

Treatment of the underlying cause will not only resolve your back pain, but prevent it from coming back again. If you’re suffering from back pain, please don’t delay. The earlier you see a physiotherapist, the quicker they can help get your back pain under control and get you back to work, sport and life.