Is Physiotherapy effective for Lower Back Pain?

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Lower back pain is by far the most common complaint of people all over the world. It affects people of varying ages and lifestyles, and over 80% of people will have an issue with it at some point in their lives.

The role of physiotherapy is now widely acknowledged as a safe, efficient and a cost-effective way to treat lower back pain, and at Portobello Physiotherapy Clinic the staff are highly skilled with extensive clinical experience in treating it. The goal with all lower back pain patients is not just to restore full pain free movement and function in the injured back but also to reduce the risk of future back pain re-occurring. Lower back pain can be debilitating, depressing and just plain exhausting.

Your Lower Back

Your lower back, or ‘lumbar spine’ region has five vertebrae, with cartilage discs in between to cushion them. The vertebrae form a protective ‘cage’ around the spinal cord.

Your lumbar spine ends on your sacrum, the bit that wedges into your pelvis. Your spine is kept stable by ligaments and muscles of the back and of the abdomen.

Lower Back Pain Causes

Lower back pain has a massive variety of causes. It may be as a result of some kind of trauma, where you pro-actively hurt it, or it can creep up on you over time starting off as a minor ache which becomes exacerbated by sustained over-stressing of the area.

Common sources of Lower Back Pain

Back Muscle Strains

Lifting items that are too heavy; poor lifting posture and muscle fatigue can lead to poor joint stabilisation and an injury. Bending from the waist rather than from the knees to pick up heavy items is a common cause of back trouble.

Ligament Sprains

Ligaments are the strong fibrous bands, and are quite tough, but if they get stretched too far too quickly they can become torn. This will cause swelling and pain, and is usually the result of a car accident or another kind of sudden, forceful trauma.

Bulging Discs

A bulging disc injury happens when a part of a disc presses against a nerve from the spinal cord and pinches it, affecting its function. Depending on how severe it is patients can experience an array of symptoms that range from pain to numbness; tingling or even spasms.

Poor Posture

Slouching when sitting, standing and lifting places stress upon your spine. Muscles fatigue, ligaments overstretch, discs stretch and your spinal joints and nerves are placed under stress.

There is a long list of more specific lower back pain causes, from osteoporosis to degenerative disc disease, but the key to addressing the pain is a tailored program of lower back physiotherapy treatment.

Lower Back Pain Treatment

Most lower back pain will respond to physiotherapy treatment, allowing you relief from pain. Early and accurate assessment is key as the injury will get worse over time if you don’t tackle it straight away.

The specific treatment will vary depending on your particular diagnosis, but there are many options to help you. Pain management will always be the first port of call- getting rid of inflammation and swelling, so the immediate trauma to the area is addressed. Dry needling and electrical stimulation as well as therapeutic massage and traction can help, depending on your particular injury.

Whatever your treatment plan, your Portobello Physiotherapists will have these aims:

Back Pain Relief

Pain is actually the final symptom you develop from a back problem, even though it’s the first thing you want to address. What is going on inside your body and the domino effect of an initial injury is what ultimately results in causing pain.

A non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug will help ease the swelling; as will cold or heat therapy (depending on what stage your injury is at). You may be prescribed painkillers by your doctor, but the ultimate goal is to heal the injury and eliminate any dependence on pharmaceuticals.

Restoring Normal Range of Motion and Strength.

As the inflammation settles down, your pain levels will improve and your Portobello physiotherapist will turn their attention to restoring normal lumbar spine function to allow you to move and bend. They’ll concentrate on the muscles surrounding the spine known as your core muscles which form a protective girdle around the spine so stress is evenly distributed.

Good abdominal muscles help support your lower back, so depending on your fitness level and specific issue your physiotherapist will develop a core stability program for you. Pilates is highly recommended to gently build core strength to guard against reinjuring your lower back.

Restoring Full Function

You and your physiotherapist will work together to get your lower back into fighting shape, so you can get back to your normal life.

Everyone has different demands for their lower back – some people have to sit at a desk all day, so your physiotherapists will give you tips and hints on how to minimise strain on your back, like getting up for a couple of minutes every hour and doing a few quick stretches. They’ll advise you on the best sitting posture too.

Athletes or those who are very active will be making greater demands of their lower spine, so your rehabilitation program will be tailored accordingly.

How do you stop it from happening again?

Once your Portobello Physiotherapist has addressed and modified any lifestyle factors contributing to your back pain there are two basic physical components that everyone depends on in order maintain a healthy lower back 1) a back that is flexible and moves well! And 2) a well-conditioned back were the core musculature is absorbing the majority of the load being placed on the back rather than the structures that comprise your spine such as the discs and intervertabral joints. Lower back pain can easily happen again if you don’t fully rehabilitate, a lack of compliance in building up core abdominal strength and maintaining mobility is often the culprit for re-occurring back pain!

You should continue a version of your back exercises routinely a few times per week. Your physiotherapist will help design a program you can easily perform at home; it’s important that you follow through with these as it builds up strength and flexibility to help guard against a re-injury.

With the correct lower back pain exercises and specific treatment guided by your physiotherapist, you can finally achieve relief from the pain!

To book your appointment with Portobello Physiotherapy Clinic and sort out your lower back problems, just call 01 476 3330.

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