Low Back Pain
In the UK, 4 out of every 5 people experience low back pain at some point in their life. It accounts for 9% of adult GP visits and is one of the leading causes of disability. Some people experience a simple ache that improved quickly while others suffer long-term pain.
Seeking professional advice and getting the right treatment quickly reduces the risk of low back pain lingering. It can also speed up recovery time and most importantly, reduce its impact on your life.
Physiotherapy for Low Back Pain
Physiotherapists are considered the experts on low back pain. By completing a robust assessment, they can often pinpoint the cause and start treatment quickly as a result. Physios are also trained to spot any serious conditions that may present as low back pain. This is especially relevant as they know when it is appropriate to refer on to the GP or another specialist.
Physiotherapary is available on the NHS but often requires a referral from your GP. Furthermore, waiting lists can be several weeks long and treatment options are limited due to resource constraints. Private physiotherapy services can be accessed quickly and, if self funding, without the need for a referral. Many private providers will also accept private health insurance but a referral may be required.
Types of lower back pain
There are a number of reasons why low back pain occurs. A number of body structures can be responsible. However, it is important to remember that it is often more than one factor contributing. This can include lifestyle factors.
Some of the well-known types of low back pain include:
- Irritation of nerve roots (femoral or sciatic nerves) – most of us have heard about the dreaded sciatica!
- Increased tone or spasm in the muscles of the lower back;
- Bone deformity (curvature of the spine or degenerative changes);
- Ligament or muscle strain/sprain – this is common during pregnancy;
- Intervertebral disc prolapse or degeneration;
Treatment for Low Back Pain
Lower back pain is one of the most common complaints treated in clinic. The above problems can affect each individual differently. In some cases it can cause severe pain and disability, yet in others no symptoms at all.
Massage and Bodywork
Massage helps to increase blood flow to the painful areas. It also releases tension in muscles. This in turn, can help reduce pain and improve impaired movement. It can be an effective treatment for many types of back pain if used as part of a structure treatment plan.
Joint mobilisations are used to release joint stiffness, improve movement and reduce pain. In addition, mobilisation can be used for patients with degenerative change, disc problems, and Hypomobility (general joint stiffness).
Acupuncture is used for both pain management and reducing muscle tension. It is an adjunct to other physiotherapy treatment. Research suggests acupuncture has good outcomes when used in the treatment of chronic lower back pain.
Lifestyle factors can also be a big contributor to low back pain. Spending 8+ hours sitting at work with a poorly set up workstation is not going to do your back any favors. However, this is often overlooked. Your physiotherapist will be able to offer you advice on how to achieve an optimal posture. They will also be able to advise on workstation set up, manual handling, and adapting tasks to reduce pain.
There is strong evidence that general and specific exercise can help low back pain. Your physio will be able to prescribe exercises that will help you make improvements outside the clinic . Exercises programs may consist of strength, stretching, and general fitness exercises.
Go to Your GP if……
- If you are experiencing any of the symptoms alongside low back pain, we recommend you seek further advice.
- Difficulty controlling or passing urine
- Lose control of your bowels
- Numbness around your back passage or your genitals
- Weakness in your legs or you are unsteady on your feet
- Have very severe ongoing pain that gets worse over several weeks.