Back Pain and PhysiotherapyBack pain is super common, affecting over 80% of Canadians at some point in their life. That’s right, its likely that you will have an episode of back pain at some point in your life. But fear not! Most episodes of back pain do not cause lasting pain or dysfunction, you will be back to good in no time! Back pain can be mild, severe or debilitating. Symptoms may include pain in the back itself or pain that radiates to the buttock or leg. It can also cause tingling or burning in the leg or foot. Daily activities like bending, sitting and lifting can become painful and restricted.
Causes of back pain
Back pain doesn’t mean there’s a serious problem! Most back pain results from injury or inflammation of the muscles, ligaments, discs, or small joints of the spine. Usually there isn’t just one cause but many contributing factors, including:
- Working in awkward or bent postures
- Prolonged sitting
- Improper or heavy lifting
- Weak back and core muscles
- Sedentary lifestyle
How physiotherapists help
Physiotherapists are highly skilled at examining and treating people with back pain. Your physiotherapist will provide a comprehensive assessment of your back to determine the source of the problem, and to develop an individualized program to treat your symptoms. Research consistently shows the best way to recover is to get active. Resting can delay improvement by increasing muscle stiffness and pain. Your physiotherapist will determine the best way to get you moving and on the road to recovery.Your physiotherapist will:
- Assess your condition, ask questions, watch you move and bend, and examine your back
- Screen out serious causes of back pain requiring medical follow-up
- Develop a customized treatment plan for your problem
- Teach you how to manage your pain and prevent (or minimize) a re-occurrence
- Provide specific treatment to reduce pain, restore mobility and strengthen your core
- A variety of manual therapy techniques such as mobilization or manipulation;
- Exercises to mobilize or strengthen appropriate muscles;
- Postural retraining and general conditioning;
- Acupuncture or IMS (intramuscular stimulation);
- Education in proper body mechanics and techniques to prevent recurrence of the back injury; and
- Modalities such as TENS, ultrasound, heat or ice to reduce pain.
PreventionResearch consistently shows that the most important factor in avoiding back injury may be your general physical conditioning. Regular aerobic exercise, such as walking or swimming, may provide the conditioning a back needs to stay healthy. However, a specific exercise program to mobilize and strengthen the spine can also be effective in preventing a recurrence of back pain. Strong back and stomach muscles are necessary to support your spine properly, and a physiotherapist can provide guidance on the appropriate exercises to tone and strengthen these muscles. We recommend the following tips to help you prevent back pain:
- Lifting – with your feet shoulder-width apart, bend your hips and knees, keeping your back as straight as possible. Grip the load firmly and hold it close to your body, tighten your stomach muscles and use the strong muscles of your legs as you lift the object. Keep your back straight and avoid twisting – point your feet in the direction you want to go.
- Posture – think tall with your chest lifted, shoulders relaxed, chin tucked in and level. Posture should be stable, balanced and relaxed when sitting, walking or standing.
- Sitting – don’t sit for long periods of time; stand up, stretch and walk around. Use a back support in your chair if necessary but make sure it fits you.
- Exercise – a healthy body-weight puts less strain on your back. Your physiotherapist can show you how to keep your back flexible and strong with correct back and stomach exercises.
- Driving – position your car seat so your back is supported and your legs are relaxed and slightly bent. If you need extra lower back support, use a lumbar roll or a rolled-up towel.
- Sleeping – your mattress should be firm enough to support your spine in a neutral position – no sagging! Consider adding a layer of foam for added support.
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