Lower Back Pain
The lower back, or lumbar spine, is an extraordinarily well-engineered structure of interconnecting bones, joint, nerves, ligaments, and muscles. These all work together to provide support, strength, and flexibility. However, due to its complexity, the lower back is susceptible to injury and pain.
Lower back pain (LBP) is the fifth most common reason for a member of the public to visit a health care professional. It can affect nearly 60 -80% of people throughout their lifetime. LBP can occur in connection with most sports, however its specific cause is unknown.
The most common form of LBP is “non-specific lower back pain” and is defined as “lower back pain not attributed to recognisable, known specific pathology”.
LBP is usually categorized in 3 subsections: acute, sub-acute and chronic. These subsections are based on the duration of the back pain. Acute LBP is an episode of LBP for less than 6 weeks, sub-acute LBP between 6 and 12 weeks and chronic LBP for 12 weeks or more.
LBP is typically characterized by a combination of the following symptoms:
Dull, aching pain
Pain that travels to the bum, legs, and feet
Pain that is worse after prolonged sitting
Pain that feels better when changing positions
Pain that is worse in the morning when waking up and better after moving around
To diagnose low back pain, a detailed description of symptoms and medical history will need to be provided by the patient. From this information, a practitioner will usually have a general idea of the source of the problem.
A physical exam will also be carried out to further examine possible causes of the pain. A typical physical exam includes, palpation, neurological exam, range of motion tests, reflex test and a straight leg raise test.
Treatment for LBP all depends on the diagnosis, however there is various self-care things that can be done at home to help with LBP.
Short rest period – most cases LBP can be improved by briefly avoiding strenuous activity. It is not advised to rest for more than a few days, as too much rest can make healing more difficult.
Activity modification – With LBP it’s all about modifying the activities you are taking part in, and avoiding the activities and positions that aggravate the pain.
Heat/ice therapy- Heat from a warm bath, hot water bottle, etc can help relax tense muscles and improve blood flow. If LBP is due to inflammation, ice or cold packs can be used to reduce swelling. It is important to protect the skin while applying heat and ice to prevent tissue damage.
Exercises – Stretching and strengthening exercises should be part of a LBP management regimen. Stretching the lower back, buttocks, hips and legs is beneficial, as these muscles support the weight of the upper boy. The more mobile theses muscles are the more movement there will be in the back without injury. Strengthening the abdominal, hip and glute muscles can help relieve LBP.
Hands-on therapy – In most cases low back pain will benefit from hands-on treatment. This could come in the form of massage, joint mobilisations, adjustments, acupuncture etc.
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