Low back pain is an umbrella term, that refers to any pain originating in the lower back. It can vary in presentation, from being mild and short-lasting, to being severe and long-term.

It affects 70-90% of people at some point in their lives, and it is very common for the condition to come back again if the underlying problem isn’t addressed. Physiotherapy can greatly assist in the assessment and treatment to reduce the risk of further episodes occurring.

What is low back pain?

There are many ways to describe it, as everyone’s pain experience is unique. It can be aching, dull, sharp, shooting, tingling, throbbing… any kind of description you’re able to put to the low back pain will help the physiotherapist understand your pain.

It can originate from a number of structures in your back, including the joints, bones, muscles, nerves and connective tissues.

Sometimes, the pain isn’t caused by an injury in the lower back, and there are other underlying factors involved such as a heightened pain response and sensitivity.

Low back pain can also cause pain in your hips and down your legs, this is called “referred pain”, you may not even feel the pain in your back.

Low back pain can be associated with weakness of the deep stabilising muscles of the body, uneven muscle strength between the left and right sides, difficulty with sensing the movement/position of your lower back, and hypersensitivity in your lower back if your back pain is persistent.

Why is it important to address low back pain?

Low back pain is important to have assessment and treatment for, as there is commonly an underlying cause for the low back pain, and the episode can often cause changes in the body. A physiotherapist is able to assess and treat your low back pain. Assessment includes a thorough history and interview, movement assessment, hands-on palpation, nerve tensioning tests and muscle strength and length tests. Once the physiotherapist has identified any contributing factors to your pain, they will assist in the treatment side of things.

Treatment for low back pain can include:

  • Advice and education, including pain management and the prognosis
  • Hands-on manual therapy including massage and joint manipulation
  • Appropriate exercise program including progressions
  • Pain management modalities including electrotherapy (TENS)
  • Equipment prescription and recommendation

It is common for low back pain to reoccur if there is an underlying cause, such as a muscle imbalance. Low back pain can stop you from living your life to the fullest, especially if you’re constantly worried about your back. A physiotherapist can help you feel more confident and move better.

Sciatica

Sciatica is a word used to describe symptoms relating to the sciatic nerve. The sciatic nerve runs from the lower back down to the legs, and helps transmit information about sensation and movement.

When the sciatic nerve is irritated, it can cause sensation changes (e.g. numbness, tingling) and/or movement changes (e.g. cramping, weakness).

Sciatica is a symptom, rather than a diagnosis. There are many causes of sciatica, including injury or irritation in the lower back, and tightness in the muscles of the hips.

Sciatica can be managed with specific exercises and stretching, specifically prescribed by your physiotherapist. It is important to determine what is causing the sciatic nerve to be irritated, so you can work towards relieving it.

Tips and Reminders for Low Back Pain

  • If you experience changes in your bladder/bowel function, or experience tingling/numbness in the saddle region between your legs, report to the emergency room at your local hospital
  • Avoid any twisting movements involving your lower back, especially if you’re lifting something heavy
  • Avoid sitting for prolonged periods of time- take a break every 20 minutes of sitting, whether that involves standing and stretching, or going for a 1-minute walk
  • Gentle exercise including walking and swimming can help with the rehab
  • Low back pain can take anywhere from a few days to a few months to settle down. Your physiotherapist will be able to give you a better idea on what to expect during your recovery process
  • Imaging (x-ray, CT, MRI) isn’t always indicated in persistent low back pain, and doesn’t necessarily reflect the amount of pain you are feeling
  • Sometimes, low back pain doesn’t have an underlying injury. A physiotherapist can help with addressing pain management, exercise and education to improve the pain you’re feeling

In this blog post we have explored the concept of low back pain and how physiotherapy can help. It is important to address the underlying cause of the low back pain to reduce the pain.

No matter whether your pain is caused by a recent injury and is new, or whether it is persistent and ongoing, a physiotherapy assessment can help you find out and treat the underlying causes of your pain, helping you lead a happier and healthier life.

What to do now?

If you or someone you know are suffering from low back pain, give us a call at Gen Physio, we have a friendly team of professionals that are dedicated to changing the lives of our clients. All of our clinicians are mobile and come to your own home to conduct an examination. Give us a call on 1300 122 884 to book a consultation today.


Article written by Anastasiia Kuzovina

Physiotherapy Team Leader – Sth Brisbane

Anastasiia graduated from the University of Queensland with a Bachelor of Physiotherapy in 2017, achieving first class honours.

Throughout her placements, she gained experience in a wide range of physiotherapy disciplines, including cardiorespiratory, musculoskeletal, neurological and community.

Having completed an honours research project related neurological rehabilitation, Anastasiia has a keen interest in the rehab field, and is passionate about empowering and motivating her clients to achieve their goals and return to doing what they love.

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