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An asian woman experiencing lower back pain

Why does my low back hurt and can my Physio help?

Okay, so your low back is sore, and you’re not sure why? Don’t worry. You’re not alone. Nearly 80% of Australian adults report low back pain in their lifetime and nearly 43% report experiencing low-intensity low back pain in the last 6 months (Walker, Muller and Grant, 2004). Let’s delve into a few of the more common causes of low back pain and whether or not your local Physiotherapist can help.

Muscle Strains and Ligament Sprains

Some of the most common types of injuries that we see in our Como/South Perth Physiotherapy Clinic this time of year are strains and sprains.

So what are they?

A typical strain can range from a low-grade irritation to a tear of a muscle or tendon. This is generally caused by an overstretching injury. This can happen suddenly when you’re playing sport, working or when twisting or falling awkwardly. Muscle irritation of a non-structural nature can also develop over a length of time, often seen with awkward postures or less than optimal workplace ergonomics.

Sprains are similar to strains but this term is used when referring to ligaments. Ligaments attach bones together (think of the commonly sprained ankle ligaments). These injuries can also range from non-structural irritations to tears.  

In your lower back, there’s a range of muscles and ligaments that can become sensitised as a result of day to day activities and can be involved in your low back pain. What is important to remember is that many of the strains and sprains we encounter are non-structural and Physiotherapists are well trained to identify the nature of your injury, provide you with the reassurance of a prognosis (predicted timeline for recovery) and explain the best course of action.

Our team of experienced Physiotherapists deal with these conditions and injuries every day and are able to perform a thorough assessment to determine the extent of your injury and get you back to work, play or competition ASAP.

Lumbar Disc Injuries

There’s a lot of talk about discs in the lumbar spine so here’s some info to keep you informed. Your lumbar spine is made up of five vertebrae and in between each of these vertebrae sits a type of shock absorber called an ‘intervertebral disc’. It was previously thought that these discs were easy to injure and hard to fix’ but we now know that these discs are relatively robust.

When they are put under a lot of force either in one event or over a period of time they can bulge or tear causing inflammation and pressure on the spinal nerves in your lower back. Most of the time though these discs just change naturally with age without symptoms even with quite significant bulges and degeneration appearing on MRI.

When someone is experiencing a specific disc injury it can be a result of lifting awkwardly or due to lifting a load that an individual is not used to. Usually, it’s more related to the latter.  

If an individual does have an acute disc sprain, depending on the severity of the injury, this can cause pain radiating into one or both lower limbs as it affects the nerves. When this is very severe it can result in weakness in the lower back and lower limbs as well as numbness and/or pins and needles in the toes.

The most important thing to do when you hurt your back is don’t get distressed, it often makes it worse. Whatever your symptoms, mild to severe, be sure to consult with your local Physio for an assessment as soon as possible. We ensure a thorough assessment, diagnosis and advice on the best management. On most occasions, we will be providing you with reassurance about the non-structural nature of your condition and giving you the best advice and treatment to get better quickly.

Osteoarthritis

Osteoarthritis is very common in the ageing population and is believed to be a result of wear and tear on the intervertebral discs and facet joints of the spine. The long-held belief is that there is a strong relationship between arthritis and pain but it is becoming increasingly clear that this is not the case.

Some individuals with osteoarthritis will experience chronic pain and this can be due to inflammation of the joints and at times irritation of the spinal nerves due to degenerative bone growth. The key to management is working out whether the wear and tear in your spine is the issue or whether it is more related to acute or persistent stiffness, weakness, faulty movement habits or inactivity.

Whilst wear and tear is age-related, pain doesn’t need to be. We have seen great results in our clinic from treatment including joint mobilisation, soft tissue treatment, dry needling, exercise programs and individualised education and advice for your specific situation.

We’ve just given you a brief overview of 3 common causes of low back pain but there are many other causes of low back pain including (but not limited to):

  •      Facet or Sacroiliac Joint Dysfunction
  •      Spondylolisthesis
  •      Spinal Stenosis
  •      Fractures/Dislocation
  •      Scoliosis or other deformities
  •      Infections
  •      Tumors
  •      Autoimmune Disease
  •      Aneurysms

Physiotherapists are highly trained health care practitioners that are able to rule out sinister, concerning causes for your back pain within a clinical assessment and if there are any concerns, order imaging as needed. The majority of lower back pain episodes are non-sinister, non-structural episodes which will resolve in a matter of days to weeks. Recovery can often be hastened with appropriate treatment and an exercise program from an experienced Physiotherapist.

If you’re experiencing low back pain, and about to start typing “Physio Near Me” into Google, don’t hesitate to give us a call at Integrity Physio in Como/South Perth. All of our appointments are booked for 30 minutes, allowing us to perform a thorough assessment and provide treatment on the first visit. Call us on (08) 9368 0458 or book a Physio appointment online today.

Reference:

Walker, B., Muller, R. and Grant, W. (2004). Low Back Pain in Australian Adults. Prevalence and Associated Disability. Journal of Manipulative and Physiological Therapeutics, 27(4), pp.238-244.