Did you know that up to 23% of the world’s adults suffer from chronic lower back pain?
Lower back pain (LBP) is a common musculoskeletal problem across the globe. It is one of the most common causes for patients to seek medical care in both primary care and as well as emergency. Having a clear understanding about what lower back pain is, its causes and how physical therapy treatment can help in controlling it, is very essential.
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What is Lower Back Pain (LBP)?
Lower back pain (LBP) refers to a medical condition that is a result of any injury, muscles or tendons in the back. Some other causes can be arthritis, structural problems and disk injuries. It can happen from many different injuries, conditions or diseases as well. Very often it is associated with an injury in the back.
The pain at the lower back can either be mild or severe. In some cases, the pain is acute and causes high-level of discomfort while walking, sleeping, working or doing day to day activities. If the lower back pain is mild it gets better with bed rest, by applying pain relievers and physical therapy (PT).
Relying on cortisone injections and hands-on treatments such as osteopathic or chiropractic manipulation can reduce pain and help the healing process. And the severe pain cases that happen because of back injuries require surgical treatment.
Key causes of lower back pain
Ideally, low back pain is reported by individuals aged between 30 and 50. The reason could be possibly due to the changes that occur in the body with growing old. As the fluid component between the vertebrae in the spine reduces with ageing. It results in the irritation of the discs in the spine. It is why strengthening your back muscles and using good body mechanics are extremely helpful in controlling low back pain.
The common conditions associated with lower back pain solutions are as follows:
- Firstly, it is muscle or ligament strain that could be due to repeated heavy lifting. It can strain back muscles and spinal ligaments.
- Secondly, due to bulging or wounded discs. Discs contain soft material that can bulge, rupture and press on a nerve.
- Thirdly, due to arthritis as it can badly affect the lower back. At times, it can lead the spine to a narrowing of the space around the spinal cord known as spinal stenosis.
- The fourth reason is osteoporosis where the spine’s vertebrae can develop painful breaks if the bones become brittle.
Some other risk factors could be as follows:
- People over 30 years of age can have lower back pain.
- Those with heavy weight or obesity are more likely to have back pain as there is pressure on joints and disks.
- Weak abdominal muscles fail to support the spine, which can lead to back strains and sprains.
- Those people who smoke, drink alcohol excessively or maintain a sedentary lifestyle have chances to have back pain.
- Certain jobs or activities that require heavy lifting or bending can eventually risk back injury.
- The structural problems like scoliosis can also cause severe back pain due to a change in spine alignment.
- Also if there is a family history of osteoarthritis then there is a risk of low back pain.
- Poor mental health can also cause back pain and also lead to depression and anxiety.
How Physical Therapy (PT) helps in treating Lower Back Pain?
Physical therapy treatment for lower back pain (LBP) requires therapeutic exercises under guidance and observation. These exercises can strengthen the lower back muscles and at the same time condition the spinal tissues and joints.
Basically, there are short- and long-term goals of physical therapy for lower back pain. It include the following:
- Reduce the painful symptoms in the lower back or leg significantly.
- Improves the functioning of the lower back to tolerate daily activities independently.
- Boost the flexibility of the spine and enhance its range of motion.
- Outline a maintenance program to control the recurrence of back pain issues.
One important question that needs to be answered is – What do you expect from physical therapy?
A physical therapist is the trained professional who will assess your back problem, its real cause and suggest specific types of exercises to get some relief. Some of them are stretching, strength training, low impact aerobic activity, manual therapy and electrical stimulation.
Types of Physical Therapies (PT)
Basically there are two types of physical therapies used to treat lower back pain. They are as follows:
Active physical therapy
It is very important to rehabilitate the spine. For best results the therapist has to follow stretching & strengthening for back pain exercise and low impact aerobic conditioning.
Passive physical therapy
Where exercise is either too painful or not possible, the physical therapist may consider passive therapies, including heat/ice packs, TENS units etc.
Practical benefits of Physical Therapy for Lower Back Pain
1. Get personalized care and attention
Physical therapy is not a one-size-fits-all approach. The physical therapist will evaluate the pain area, its causes and suggest relevant exercises. They thoroughly consider your body type, age, lifestyle, existing health conditions, and how you respond to different types of movement in the lower back.
2. Physical therapy reduces pain
A well trained physical therapist carefully observes the way an individual moves when they walk/run and how they get up from a sitting and laying down position. It helps them to understand the problem and suggest right exercises that will reduce the pain that happens by the specific movements. The therapist also uses electrical stimulation to restore function.
3. Helps in restoring mobility
The professional physical therapists are knowledgeable and experienced to treat your lower back pain and at the same time they conduct research to find out the root cause of pain. In case if you witness a stiff back, the main focus of the physical therapist will be on easing that stiffness. If you have weak back muscles, the therapist recommends strengthening exercises for better motion.
4. Physical therapy put down the need for surgery
Surgery for lower back should be considered as the last option and physical therapy is accepted as one of the most proactive ways to treat back pain problems.
5. Minimizes the risk of further injury
In case your job demands to carry out repetitive movements, your physical therapy will consider such movements and suggest recovery stretches to avoid back injury in the near future.
6. Controls the risk of bad falls
If you are among those who practice wrong posture or are suffering from a degenerative disease, which has a high tendency of falling, a physical therapist will outline a plan to improve your balance, as well as improve coordination. It will help in reducing the chances of falling down.
Physical therapy can also combine with other nonsurgical treatments for the treatment of lower back pain and for overall improvement. An amalgamation of physical therapy and certain injections may also be recommended by a physician for certain back pain recovery. Physical therapists also prescribe self-treatments, like heat and cold therapy, to decrease pain & inflammation and enhance healing of tissues.