Lower back pain is an extremely common condition with up to 80% of the population experiencing back pain at some time during the lives. Although the underlying pathology of low back pain is usually not serious, it is an important cause of pain in the community and has considerable impact on the economy due to time taken off work. Whilst the vast majority of patients with back pain will recover within 6 weeks, a small number will go on to develop chronic back pain and a gradual deterioration of functionality.
Causes of Lower Back Pain
Most causes of back pain are the result of irritation or poor function of the bones, joints, ligaments or muscles in your back. Such irritation can be the result of Vertebral dysfunction, a common condition that occurs when the spinal vertebrae compress or irritate the delicate nerve structures of your lower back.
Other causes of lower back pain include inflammatory arthritis (e.g. ankylosis spondylitis, Rheumatoid arthritis), and fractures due to osteoporosis. Back pain may also be ‘referred’ from another location.
Less common conditions causing low back pain include cancer (usually from another source such as the prostate or lung), serious infections and compression of the spinal cord.
Assessment of Lower Back Pain
Your Physiotherapist will perform a detailed history, orthopaedic, neurological and spinal examination to determine the exact cause of your lower back pain. Other tests including x-rays and digital scanning may also be recommended.
Treatment of Lower Back Pain
Physiotherpay treatment of low back pain focuses on restoring function to poorly moving spinal joints, as well as reducing muscle tension and increasing muscle strength. This results in improved movement, reduced pain and deceased nerve irritation.
Treatments are tailored to the individual case usually consisting of spinal and soft tissue mobilisation, core stabilization advice, strengthening exercises, stretching and heat/cold therapy.