Lower Back Pain
The lower back, or lumbar spine, is an extraordinarily well-engineered structure. Consisting 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 someone 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”. It 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 characterised by a combination of the following symptoms:
-Dull, aching pain
-Pain that travels to the bum, legs, and feet
-Prolonged sitting causes the pain to worsen
-Changing positions helps to alleviate pain
-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 examine the possible causes of the pain further. 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 are various self-care things you can do 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 it.
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/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 body. 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 also help to relieve LBP.
Hands-on therapy – In most cases lower back pain will benefit from hands-on treatment. This could come in the form of massage, joint mobilisations, adjustments, acupuncture etc.