Low back pain is one of the most common presentations seen by physiotherapists, and 80% of the adult population will experience back pain at some point in their life. The low back (Lumbar Spine and adjacent structures) is a complex mechanical device, and many structure exist that can contribute to pain. The bones that make up the spinal column are called vertebrae, with discs in between. These are spongy pads of cartilage that allow flexibility through the spine and act as shock absorbers. Ligaments, muscles and tendons surround the spine to provide support and stability, and control movement.
Some of the most common causes of Low Back Pain are:
– Postural Stress – Poor posture stresses your spine. Ligaments are overstretched, muscles tire and joints and nerves are put under pressure.
– Disc Problems – Discs are attached to the vertebrae, above and below, so they cannot ‘slip’ out of place. They can wear down with age, but most disc problems arise from injury. Discs can bulge (prolapse), herniate or even rupture, and are most commonly injured in bending or twisting.
– Referred Pain or Sciatica – The sciatic nerves run from the lower back, through the buttocks and down the back of your legs. Irritation anywhere along this pathway will cause pain in the back and legs.
– Muscular Strains – Minor back muscle strains may improve on their own, but most will require physiotherapy treatment and education to relieve pain and promote healing.
– Ligament Sprains – Stretching ligaments too far or too quickly makes them tear and bleed into surrounding tissues, causing swelling and pain.
– Arthritis and Degenerative Change – Vertebral and facet joints can be affected by arthritis, causing degeneration and inflammation within the joint and the growth of bony spurs on the edges of the vertebrae.
Physiotherapy for Low Back Pain
Your Physiotherapist can accurately assess and diagnose the cause of your back pain, and formulate an individualised treatment plan to alleviate pain and dysfunction. Treatment may involve joint, ligament or muscular mobilisation, massage, stretching, dry needling or acupuncture, heat treatment, electrotherapy, and rehabilitation through graded exercise programmes (including Clinical Pilates) to strengthen postural muscles, improve flexibility and optimise recovery.
NOTE: This information is general in nature and in no way should be substituted for the advice of an appropriate health professional. If your low back pain is severe, persistent, recurrent, or accompanied by other symptoms such as pain or numbness down the leg or difficulty with movement, it is recommended that you consult your GP.