Ultimate Guide to Lower Back Pain
In this guide to lower back pain, we will dive into the types and causes of back pain, how to find relief, and share physiotherapy exercises for low back pain. Read on to explore how physiotherapy for lower back pain can provide tools and strategies to help to manage and reduce the likelihood of recurring back pain.
What is lower back pain?
The lower back is an important and complex part of the body.
This particular area alone is responsible for:
Supporting the spinal column
Holding up the weight of the upper body
Using muscles that flex and rotate the hips to control walking
Housing nerves that supply power and sensation to the pelvis, legs, and feet
The back is designed to bend, twist, sit, stand and walk. If your back pain is persisting and inhibiting your normal activities of daily living, physiotherapy can help.
Symptoms of lower back pain
As the lower back is a complex structure with interconnecting ligaments, bones, nerves, and joints, there can be many different symptoms and varied causes of discomfort. Lower back pain is often acute - a pain that happens quickly and lasts only a short time. However, sometimes episodes of back pain can come and go. If your back pain persists, physiotherapy can help.
It’s vital to identify the symptoms correctly and receive a proper diagnosis from a healthcare professional, such as a physiotherapist for back pain, in order to combat this pain effectively.
Some common symptoms of low back pain may include:
Dull and aching pain in the hips and pelvis
Reduced mobility and a limited range of motion
Travelling numb, tingling, or pins-and-needles sensations
Sharp stinging down the thighs, legs, and feet
Swelling or inflammation
What causes lower back pain?
Lower back pain refers to several symptoms that can stem from varied and different sources. A majority of back pain is referred to as “non-specific”, which means there is no obvious reason for it. Widely speaking, though, there are several ways to categorise back pain to specify the best course of lower back therapy.
There are plenty of reasons why you may be experiencing pain in your lower back.
Long sustained static positions and reduced activity levels
BMI / body weight
Physiotherapy for lower back pain can be a big help to feeling back on track. If you can, try to identify where the pain is coming from in order to receive the right kind of treatment.
Below we explore the most common reasons for back pain.
Muscle or ligament sprain or strain
This type of low back pain can happen suddenly, from a fast awkward movement or from lifting something too heavy. When muscles or ligaments are beyond their capacity, they may be damaged and tear. This is very common to happen in sports environments, especially if the body is twisted or put in contact with forceful collisions.
A strain or sprain can also develop slowly from movements repeated over lengths of time. This is common if you have a job that requires lifting heavy objects while twisting, repetitive bending, or promotes poor posture (such as working at a desk). A physio for lower back pain can provide advice on how to hold the body correctly, stretch, and build muscles to protect from other injuries in the future.
Bulging or ruptured disks
Disks are located in your spine, placed on top and below each bone to protect the spaces between the vertebrae. However, they may become damaged and press on nerves, causing pain. Discs are strong. They can get injured just like any other structure - but they can heal, especially with the help of certain strengthening exercises.
Sciatica is an irritation to the sciatic nerve which can be driven by a few different reasons. When the sciatic nerve is irritated, it can sometimes lead to symptoms down your leg such as pain, tingling, and numbness. Lower back pain felt from sciatica can be experienced as stinging or numbness up and down the thighs, legs, and feet.
Arthritis is a very common age-related condition, just like having grey hairs and wrinkles. It affects the cartilage in your bones, and you may develop it over time in the lower back. Spinal stenosis is a type of arthritis that typically presents with pain that is felt when walking or standing, and you may find that it is eased by sitting.
Back physiotherapy can help manage arthritis through exercise.
Osteoporosis is a progressive condition related to bone density in the cylindrical vertebra. Physiotherapists for back pain will use strengthening and balancing exercises to reduce the likelihood of fractures and falls in the future.
The most common cause of lower back pain
The single most common cause of lower back pain is a strained or sprained muscle or ligament. The pain is not long-lasting and may last from a few days to a few months at the most. The pain experienced may be quite severe, but it will not typically cause long-lasting pain if cared for appropriately at home or by a physio for lower back pain.
These injuries can be prevented by building muscles and doing exercises focused on improving mobility. Physiotherapy exercises for low back pain can be recommended to decrease the risk of pain in the future.
What can cause lower back pain in women?
There are a few conditions that cause lower back pain mainly or exclusively in women. For example, it’s more likely for back pain in women to become chronic over time. Women may also be more susceptible to back problems once they reach a post-menopausal age. Some common causes of lower back pain in women are due to changes in lifestyle and changes in their bodies, such as pregnancy. Hormonal imbalances, childbirth, or weight gain may all affect the lower back and lead to pain.
How do I know if my lower back pain is serious?
Do not ignore any kind of low back pain. If you continue to participate in sports or do other strenuous activities as normal, the problem may worsen, increasing pain and prolonging recovery.
Lower back pain should be taken extremely seriously and you should seek emergency care without delay if accompanied by any of these conditions:
Incontinence or a loss of bowel and bladder control
Pain and/or numbness in one or both legs
Sudden loss of motor control and weakness in one or both legs
Severe back pain
Other signs to be aware of:
Fever and chills
Sudden unexplained weight loss
Severe pain after major trauma or accident
Speak to a doctor immediately if any of these symptoms occur or if your lower back pain is great enough to interfere with your day-to-day activities, sleep, or mobility.
How do you relieve lower back pain?
Depending on the type of lower back pain, you may be able to relieve the pain at home and on your own. Short periods of rest and modifying your activity level can be helpful for mild or acute pain. A balance should be kept between staying active while avoiding aggravating movements or actions. Long periods of rest are not recommended, as lying down can weaken muscles and worsen the pain.
Hot/cold therapy can also be a helpful and accessible at-home treatment. A warm bath or heating pad can increase blood flow and relax muscles while ice packs will be able to reduce any inflammation or swelling. Over-the-counter pain medication, such as paracetamol or ibuprofen, can reduce inflammation and relieve pain. These are helpful for lower back pain caused by swollen nerves and muscles.
If the pain persists, surgery may be recommended. However, there are nonsurgical methods available such as physio for lower back pain that should be used beforehand.
The role of physiotherapy for lower back pain relief
The lower back is a complex system made up of intricate systems of nerves, joints, muscles, vertebrae, discs, and much more. Pain in the lower back can stem from more than one source and may be coming from a combination of issues and problems. Physiotherapy for lower back pain can take a holistic approach to address all of the problems that may be causing pain. Back physiotherapy will focus on relieving pain and restoring movement and function.
How can lower back pain be treated?
Physiotherapy for lower back pain will involve several different methods of treatment. A physio clinic’s treatment can vary depending on the individual. Physiotherapy can help you to make sense of your pain and learn strategies to help to manage it. Treatment may include things like manual therapy and exercise therapy. They may also use passive methods such as Ultrasound, acupuncture, TENS units, or hot cold therapy.
A physiotherapist for back pain will typically provide advice on how to prevent lower back pain in the future, such as guidance on correct body posture. They can also share physiotherapy exercises for low back pain or do these exercises with you to rehabilitate the spine and get effective results.
Lower back pain exercises
There is no one exercise that fits all - but some strengthening exercise suggestions to target the low back are:
Cat-cow stretch - Get down onto your hands and knees. Slowly round your spine and arch your back as if it's being pulled up to the ceiling. Return to a neutral position. Then slowly lift your head and let your abdomen sag down toward the floor.
Bridge - Lie your back on the floor or on a mat if you have one. Keep your hands rested at the sides, and have your knees bent with your feet flat on the floor. From this position, push your lower back into the ground by tightening your abdominal and buttock muscles. Raise your hips, creating a straight line from your knees to your shoulder. Hold this position for 20 to 30 seconds while squeezing your core.
Cobra - Begin by lying flat on your stomach with your palms placed flat on the ground directly below your shoulders. Your elbows should be bent straight back and hugged into your sides. Create a neutral position with your neck by looking straight down at your mat, and push your pubic bone to the floor. From this position, lift your chest off the floor on an inhale. Keep your low ribs on the floor, roll your shoulders back, and keep your elbows hugged to your side. Exhale to release back on the floor or progress to squats or planks.
Plank - From the cobra position, move to a position that has you on your hands and knees. Ensure that your arms are in a sturdy position with the wrists and elbows right below the shoulders. Extend your legs back and engage your abdominals to keep your body in a rigid and perfectly straight line - from your neck to the toes. Hold this position for between 10 to 60 seconds, and then gently lower yourself to the floor.
Squats - Stand upright with your feet shoulder-width apart and slightly angled outward. Make sure that your feet are not pointed straight ahead!
From this position, bend your knees as though you are about to sit in a chair. Push your hips back, bend the groin, and make sure that your back is straight and not curved as you go. If you feel unbalanced, you can extend your arms out.
A variety of exercises is good for your back. Focus on the ones you enjoy doing the most!
We can help you find the best exercise plan to help you get your body back to its full potential and without pain. Call us at +44 (0)203 893 5100 or click here to book your appointment online!