Low back pain is one of the most common ailments across the globe. As much as 80% of the population can expect a bout of lower back pain within their lifetime (Macfarlane et al., 1999).
What is Low Back Pain?
Low back pain is felt in the lower 1/3 of the spine. It can be central, or to one side. Symptoms can range from a sharp, very localised pain through to a diffused, widespread ache.
Referred pain is pain that is felt elsewhere other than the site of the injury. It is quite complicated to explain referred pain to patients, as there may not in fact be any discomfort at the main site of injury.
If the pain is being referred, runners tend to most commonly be experiencing the referral into the glute and upper hamstring area. Pain can also be felt into the front thigh, down the side of the leg and into the groin area.
Early warning signs for Low back Pain
– Specific pain in the lower back
– Discomfort felt in the lower back when moving the hip/leg
– Pain felt in the lower back, glutes and legs
– Pins and needles in the glutes of legs
– Numbness in the glutes and legs
When discussing any lower back injury, there are some red flags to look out for. If these are present you need to take some immediate action.
– Numbness in your saddle area (the area between your legs that would make contact with a horse saddle when riding)
– Loss of bladder or bone control or urinary retention
– Significant loss of strength in your legs
You should seek emergency medical care if you experience these red flag symptoms, especially if you have a first bout of back pain and are under 16 years old or over 50 years old. These symptoms could suggest an impingement of the spinal cord which is a medical emergency. However, if you are confident that you have a fairly standard low back pain and have visited your GP to confirm there is no underlying cause, the following information could be useful to you.
Common Reasons for Low back pain
– Length of neighbouring muscles
– Muscle strength
– Muscle weakness
– Inactive muscles
– Overactive muscles
The treatment protocol has so many variations because there are so many possible causes of lower back pain. Typically it will include some soft tissue massage, spinal mobilisations and if required (with your consent) some spinal manipulations. Exercise prescription is a key element for treating the lower back. A simple exercise plan to follow at home is often seen to really help with lower back pain.
What to expect from a physiotherapist/rehabilitator
When you visit the Physio/rehabilitator, you will be examined for posture, alignment and flexibility. The best clothing is some shorts and a vest top so we can see as much as your body as possible. It is absolutely necessary to lift the top up to see your back. Within your limits it is good to see how far you can bend and flex the trunk, with clear signal to when you feel the pain, and to what level of pain (0 – 10). From this information we can work out where the pain is coming from, and therefore direct the treatment to the source of injury.
Here At Comfort Health
If you are experiencing any of the points mentioned above, click here to get booked in to see one of our practitioners today. If you have any doubt that you may be dealing with a red flag, please get in contact with your GP today, or get emergency medical care.