Back pain is a common problem that affects up to 80% of us at some point during our lifetime. So, the chances are that you will suffer with it at some point. A big cause of low back pain is often our posture either when standing, sitting or performing an activity incorrectly. People in job roles that involve prolonged sitting or standing in one position, awkward postures, repetitive activities or heavy lifting are particularly at risk.
Low back pain is the most common form of back pain and usually manifests itself as a nagging ache or stiffness initially. In more serious cases there may be a specific incident that you can attribute to causing your back pain. If this is the case the pain experienced is usually sharper and more deliberating. In either case your first step to getting yourself better is to give active Physiotherapy a call to arrange an assessment.
The most important thing for you to identify is what has caused your back pain and what structures have been damaged as a result. Physiotherapy and acupuncture treatment are the first line of treatment and management recommended by medical professionals for all kinds of back pain. Listed below are 3 common types of back pain with some further information as to how physiotherapy can help.
Lumbago/muscular low back pain
If you have a general aching, tension or stiffness in you lower back that has come on gradually over a period time with no known origin, it is likely that you are suffering with Lumbago. This generalised low back pain is usually caused by poor posture, repetitive tasks or overuse form a sudden change in activity. It usually only causes strain to the soft tissue or the lower back muscles and ligaments and causes no damage to the spine itself. This sort of low back pain can be treated very effectively with a combination of specific exercises, spinal mobilisations, soft-tissue massage and release, passive stretches, acupuncture and the use of heat.
Slipped disc/ disc herniation
This is where the outside layer of one of the discs in your spine ruptures and the gel on the inside leaks out into the spinal canal. A “slipped disc” is generally caused by repeated bending/twisting or prolonged slouched sitting resulting in an increase in pressure at the back of the disc that gets so great that it causes the back wall to initially bulge and then eventually tear. This then causes the gel on the inside to protrude out. The result of this can not only be back pain but also pain in other areas of the body too. This is because a disc herniation often causes pressure on the nerve which can illicit pain, numbness and tingling in other parts of the body. Commonly, the sciatic nerve is affected, hence the term “Sciatica”. This is characterised by pain along the route of the sciatic nerve ( through the buttock and down the back of the leg). Again physiotherapy is the first recommended treatment for this sort of condition, in a lot of cases resulting in full resolution of the symptoms, although in some cases onward referral to a specialist is required. In almost all cases physiotherapy treatment can reduce pain and improve function and mobility for these patients.
This is a common term used to describe pain, muscle weakness and tingling caused by pressure on the sciatic nerve. The key to the effective treatment of sciatic nerve symptoms is establishing what structures are causing this nerve compression. In some cases it can be a disc bulge or herniation as discussed above. However, in other cases it may be an inflamed or dysfunctional facet joint or a muscle that is in spasm. If you have had sciatic pain for a long time it is likely that a combination of all these is contributing to your pain. Physiotherapy treatment to loosen these joints, facilitate movement of the nerve and release muscle spasm can be highly effective in treating sciatica. It can not only help alleviate pain and restore movement but it can also increase muscle strength and restore sensation.