The Low Down on Low Back Pain

The Low Down on Low Back Pain

What is Low Back Pain?

Low Back Pain is exactly how it sounds, it is a pain experience arising from the lumbar spine and may also be a cause of pain symtpoms in the buttocks, groin, thighs, legs and feet.

Here are some classic statistics for low back pain:

  1. Low Back Pain will affect over 80% of the population during their lifetime
  2. 50% of those will have episodic (reoccurring symptoms) and,
  3. 20% will go onto develop Chronic (or constant everyday) low back pain.

Kind of frightening hey!

Low Back Pain seams an often complex puzzle which can originate from many different places or conditions.

Some conditions that many people perceive are the cause of their back pain symptoms include osteoarthritis, osteoporosis, disk herniations and bulges, degenerative disk disease, facet joint arthritis, and lumbar spinal stenosis.

Or you maybe under the belief that your low back pain could be originating from:

  • the intervertebral disks
  • the muscles surrounding your spine
  • the facet joints
  • the ligaments
  • the nerves 

However, back pain is not always as specific as what people think and could actually arise from any one or many of the structure within the back that has a nerve supply.

Sometime there is no one structure that is the sole cause for back pain and the cause lays within the nervous system itself.

As there is so many places where symptoms can arise from and many may vary. 

Some people might feel their pain in a single area, or it might be more broadly spread and travel into the buttocks, down one or both legs.

Your sensation might be one or any of the following:

  • dull
  • throbbing
  • aching
  • burning
  • shooting
  • sharp

And it may cause muscle spasms or stiffness. 

But the most common complaint is PAIN!

Who gets Low Back Pain?

As mentioned earlier Low Back Pain is an extremely common complaint. 

Some other statistics tell us that:

  • 15-33% of population at any one time will be experiencing back pain
  • It can affect anyone of any age, sex or race
  • Back pain is most prevalent in 35-55 year olds
  • Back pain in children and adolescence is less prevalent but rising
  • A family history of spinal problems is associated with ones risk of suffering back pain 
  • Stress and job satisfaction are also factors associated with low back pain incidence
It isn’t all scary though!
Given that 4 in 5 people will suffer back pain in their life. 
  • Most episodes of low back pain will improve on it’s own regardless of intervention
  • Further improvements will occur within the next 3 months

“remember the body is designed to get better!”

Let me guess what your thinking…

“What is the point of seeking treatment??”

Let me tell you!

“Any occurrence of low back pain will have significant improvements in symptoms and function within the first month of treatment!”

How does Back Pain happen?

There are many proposed factors to why back pain occurs in life.

One factor to an acute episode or injury to the back is tissue overuse or overload (we call this a tissue based model and will cover this in part 1 of these blogs)

There are two main types of overload:

Cumulative type– meaning that there has been repetitive low level loading on the tissues of the back, without a period of time for it to adapt.

As time goes on, if the load continues it will reach a point, whether due to fatigue or repetitive micro trauma, were the tissue can no longer sustain or tolerate that given load and it fails. (See diagram below)

Now some people attribute frequent or repetitive bending or lifting as being bad for their back and causing it to be painful.

Single or receptive lifting is not to be feared, the body is a wonderful thing that is designed to adapt to load. It just needs time to adapt, and time is one of the things we seam to lack in todays day and age.

Tip: if lifting heavy or repetitively remember allow time to rest, recover and adapt to the load. You will always stronger if you do!

Single Event – A back injury can also occur after a single significant event where the loading on the structures of the back is greater than what would normally occur or what it is used to as in the diagram below.

Single Event Tissue Failure

Examples of this could include falling from a ladder, a car accident or twisting while lifting something very heavy when your body is used to sitting in a chair.

What about that time sneezing or picking up a pen and my back went?? I wasn’t doing anything.

Heard of the straw that broke the camels back?

This is where the tissue could take no more and even the smallest thing was enough over load for tissue failure or aggravation to occur resulting in your injury. It just happened.

Now to deal with it!

The Treatment of a Low Back Injury

How we manage Low Back Pain at Fighting Fit Physiotherapy

  1. Education

Education is the single most important treatment in lower back pain.

At FightingFit we will help you learn and understand the causes of a back injury. All tissues in our body are designed to heal, but pain is an individual experience and will affect everyone differently. 

It is important you understand that not all pain is a result of tissue damage and that other factors within the nervous system can be at play during phases of healing and sometimes continue beyond reasonable time frames resulting in long standing pain complaints.

Understanding the contributors to your injury, the experience of back pain, how to best manage every single step whether acute or chronic back pain to get a long standing result, is the most important thing.

  1. Early return to activity/function

Another important factor in low back pain is returning to movement quickly.

We will help you begin moving again in the safest and most effective way possible.

Each exercise and movement will be tailored and appropriate to the time of injury and pain experienced. 

As your function improves, pain decreases and movement returns to normal, we will progress you each step of the way.

  1. Manual therapy

In order to assist you moving better we may use a variety of ‘hands on’ techniques to assist in easing things like muscle tone, reduce guarding and improve stiffness that commonly accompanies back pain.

Manual therapy is used closely with exercise and an early return to activity plan to maximise results.

  1. Exercise

Exercise is one of the most important treatments for the long term management of lower back pain.

At FightingFit physiotherapy we have a fully equiped private gym for our patients.

This allows us to help you build up your muscle strength, address any tightness and help you move better in a supported and supervised environment under the guidance  physiotherapists and exercise physiologists.

Our aim is to build up your capacity and regain that tissue tolerance so that things like gardening, running, surfing, sports, and working is easy and achievable for you every single day.

“the Back is designed to move, not sit, rest and stiffen up!

Are you struggling with Low Back Pain?

If you are suffering a recent back injury or had ongoing back pain for some time now. Then please feel free to contact me or the clinic via messenger and see what we can do to get your out of pain and back to what you love doing sooner and for the long term!

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