Low back pain, 3 words that everyone has probably heard from a family member or a friend at sometime in your life. Statistically, approximately 70-90% of the Australian population will experience some form of lower back pain in their lifetime. That’s a lot of people. The good news, only 10% of cases go on to suffer long term pain/disability or go onto have lower back surgery. As physiotherapists, lower back pain is our bread and butter. We treat a lot of cases everyday from children to the older adult population.
Low back pain can be attributed to many structures in the lower back including the intervertebral disc, the joints on either side of the spine, lots of different muscles in the back, ligaments, the vertebrae in the back and many other things. That’s a lot of things that are very close together, therefore most lower back pain is classified as non specific lower back pain, meaning that your pain is from a back structure, but the exact source cannot be determined.
90% of lower back pain is classified as non specific, while the other 10% of back pain comes from the spinal nerves, a bone fracture or other causes such as cancer or tumors.
So in short, lower back pain is highly common and the good news is that most of the cases we see respond really well to a physiotherapy program. Great news.
Below we have detailed some key do’s and dont’s for our patients with lower back pain
DO: Listen To Your Body, Do Something Different
Most of us push thru things that are uncomfortable without listening to what our body is telling us.
Pain is simply a response from the brain when it feels threatened. The amount of pain we have is not an indication of DAMAGE, it simply means our body wants us to do something different for the time being. We often don’t listen to this and push thru. But should we simply stop when we get pain. ?
Often, we just need to learn to do things in a variety of different ways. For example, if bending over hurts, does that mean bending is bad? No, it simply means that your lower back cannot handle bending this way right now and we may need to bend in different ways while the body gets used to bending your normal way
If standing hurts, we need to stand differently for the time being, if lifting hurts, we need to learn how to lift in a way that feels more comfortable.
DO: Move more and sit less
Almost all the research into persistent pain tells us that exercise is one of the best ways to decrease your lower back pain and increase your quality of life in the long term. The good news, there seems to be no difference between exercise types. In patients with long term back pain, pilates and gym based workouts using weights had no difference in outcomes. What does this mean, well, the key message is to do what you enjoy. If you like the gym environment and throwing weights around, great, if you prefer lower intensity yoga or pilates, that’s great too. The key message, move more and sit less, your back will thank you.
DO: Get A Good night’s sleep
Recent research has showed an increase in inflammatory markers in the blood in people who don’t get enough sleep. In short, when we don’t get enough sleep, your brain and nerves (the things that supply the messages from the brain to the muscles) become more hypersensitive. Getting a good night sleep is just as important as a good diet and getting enough exercise.
DON’T: Just do sit ups
For years we gave people exercises that trained the abdominals really hard mostly sit ups and planks. Later down the track, we have realized that the muscles that do these exercises don’t necessarily help us fix back pain. Recently, we have found that people with chronic back pain may have a different way of moving and controlling their muscles. We have found that the “core muscles” may be weak, lack endurance or don’t work well with other muscles. The key factor is that we train each individual weaknesses. This may be trunk muscles, leg muscles, upper back muscles or all of the above.
DO: Seek Treatment as early as possible
Getting good advice and getting in for treatment early may save you weeks of pain and discomfort. We find that most of the time, back pain can be eased within 1-2 sessions. A lot of people tend to wait a few weeks for treatment hoping their symptoms will pass however this can lead to decreased flexibility and strength which take longer to overcome.
Treatment at Bounce Physio typically involves:
- Early hands on treatment from day 1 to help to resolve your symptoms quickly so you can start to move freely as soon as possible
- A thorough plan so you understand what your treatment program will look like and what you need to do to get back to normal ASAP
- Exercises which can include stretching, strengthening or pilates based exercises to make your back more resilient to day to day stresses
- Muscle co-ordination exercises which can include using our real time ultrasound device to look at your muscles working in 3D
- Self management techniques and a plan moving forward to get you moving well but also to keep you moving well
Don’t let your back pain put a hold on your life, keep moving and make sure to get some treatment as quickly as possible