What is low back pain?
Low back pain (LBP) can be defined as either acute (lasting a few weeks) or chronic (lasting over a few months) low back pain. LBP is a multifactorial issue that can present with varying symptoms and deficits. Your low back spans the area between the bottom of your ribcage to the top of your hips. LBP is one of the leading causes of pain and disability within Australia, with one in six Australian’s being affected and taking time off work.
Am I at risk of experiencing low back pain?
There is a range of risk factors that contribute to a person’s likelihood of experiencing low back pain. Some of these may include;
Unfortunately, like most conditions, your risk of developing LBP does increase with age, with the average person experiencing their first bout of LBP between the ages of 30-50years. Despite this fact, there are a number of ways you may reduce your risk, and alleviate symptoms of LBP as you age.
“Move It or Lose It”
Higher exercise and physical activity/ fitness levels are an important factor to reduce your risk of developing, or relieving LBP. Studies have shown that engaging in regular walking or strength training reduces lumbar pain, and improves function.
Are you in a job that requires long hours of sitting or heavy lifting, pulling or pushing? These activities may predispose you to LBP due to the increased repetitive load placed throughout your back. Long hours of sitting in a poor posture may also place an incorrect load through your low back, contributing to your pain. It is important to maintain a good posture and biomechanics when participating in any heavy lifting, and to get assistance when required. If you’re an office worker, or work for long hours in a chair, ensure you are regularly getting up and stretching, and sit upright in the chair that supports your lower back.
Weight and Body Composition
With Australia’s obesity epidemic on the rise, the prevalence of LBP is also rising. Sudden weight gain, or being overweight/ obese contributes to the mechanical load on your back, which is linked to increasing pain in this area.
So what are the potential other causes of my pain?
Acute and Chronic LBP may often be due to a musculoskeletal complaint, however, there are some cases where this pain is caused by something more serious.
Some more common conditions that may contribute to LBP include;
– Disc injuries
– Fractures and bony injuries
– Sciatic Pain
– Skeletal irregularities, including Scoliosis
– Radiculopathy or referred pain
– Disc degeneration
– Ligament Sprains
– Muscle injury or strains
On occasion, back pain may even be caused by other underlying conditions such as;
– Kidney stones
– Visceral (organ) referral
– Rheumatoid Arthritis
So what do I do about my pain?
So – if you’re experiencing LBP, do not fret! It is predicted that up to 85% of us will experience acute LBP over our lifetime, with only some of these progressing to recurring, or persistent problems. Physical therapists, such as an Osteopath, can help with hands on assessment, diagnosis and treatment of this pain. Treatment for LBP may include massage, manipulation/ mobilisation techniques, light exercises, patient education and lifestyle modification to assist in symptom relief. When you seek help from an Osteopath, they will ask you a range of questions and provide hands on assessment to help quantify your current range of motion restrictions, strength deficits and any alterations in movement patterns or coordination. The verbal questioning will include questions about your lifestyle history, in order for the Osteopath to understand you and your pain better, and how it is affecting your life. These questions will also help rule in or out any more serious underlying conditions that may be causing your pain.
- Acute = new, chronic = had it for a while
- There are a range of causes, you need to find which affects you
- Don’t worry about the why, just learn the best ways to manage it
- Manage it through a mix of stretches/walking that actually improve it (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kYYUuMofyu8)
- Strength and exercise will reduce your incidence of getting back pain