Lower back pain is a common problem with over 80% of Americans complaining of lower back pain at some point in their lives. In some cases, lower back pain resolve on its own without treatment. However, many of the clients we see have symptoms that have lingered weeks, months, and even years.
The symptoms of lower back pain vary widely. The pain may be dull, burning, or sharp. The pain might be isolated to a pinpoint location or distributed over a large area. Sometimes, pain might radiate down on leg or the other. There are three types of lower back pain
- Acute – pain lasting less than 3-months.
- Recurrent – acute symptoms that come back.
- Chronic – pain lasting more that 3-months.
There are several conditions that may be related to your low back pain, such as degenerative disc disease, herniated disks, spinal stenosis, and osteoarthritis. However, research has shown these conditions are also present in people without any pain. X-ray or MRI results do not necessarily provide the sole reason for pain.
In most cases, lower back pain can be effectively managed with physical therapy. Only cases where loss of bowel or bladder control and/or numbness in the groin or inner thigh warrant serious medical and surgical intervention.
In our physical therapy office, the first recommendation that we usually make is to take a short break from the aggravating activity. This allows for an environment for the inflammation to settle down and irritated nerves and muscle tissue to calm down. While taking a break usually helps with pain, we know for our patients to get back to the activities that they enjoy, we have to address the root of what is exacerbating lower back pain.
In many cases, lower back pain is correlated with poor mobility of the hip muscles and the lumbar spine. This can be combined with weakness of the core, lower back, and gluteal muscles. In addition, if there are technique/form errors with exercise, this may lead to faulty spine mechanics. However, the only way to know what is contributing to pain and injury is to perform a complete assessment.
When pain and stiffness is found via our assessment, our approach includes manual mobilization to alleviate pain and improve mobility. Improvements can be made very quickly if the right regions are targeted. If weakness is found, we teach activation exercises to help our clients better engage muscles that are not firing well. Depending on why the back is flared up, a spinal flexion OR extension based exercise program may be called upon.
Once pain is controlled and muscles engage better, our next step is teaching our patients to develop stability of the hips and spine with resistance exercise. We slow begin to reintroduce movements and exercises that were once painful. We teach proper technique with all loaded patterns of movement (e.g. push, pull, hinge, squat, lunge).
When addressed with a through physical therapy assessment and plan of care, lower back pain can be addressed conservatively. However, ignoring symptoms and continuing with repetitive activity with poor mechanics can decrease quality of life and cause further injury. If you feel like you may be developing a lower back problem, the physical therapists at Movement Solutions would be glad to help.
We have a free guide on relieving lower back pain and stiffness that can give you further insight into back problems and help kickstart your recovery. We are available for a free 15-minute phone consultation to talk about how your pain is affecting you and discuss your treatment options.
If your concerns warrant an in-person consultation, we offer a limited number of free Discovery Visits at our office. This type of appointment of for those who are interested in working with us. It is an opportunity to ask questions, obtain clarity about your condition, and develop confidence that we can help you. If you’re in pain and unsure about what your next steps should be, call us at (864) 558-7346 and ask how we can help.