Did you know that lower back pain is the 5th most common reason for people to visit their doctor! This always strikes me as weird as generally speaking your Physio is a better bet when you have musculoskeletal pain than your GP. Did you also know that lower back pain will affect around 70% of people throughout their lifetime. That a lot!
Low back pain is usually categorized into 3 categories: acute, sub-acute and chronic. Acute low back pain is an episode of back pain that is less than 6 weeks, sub-acute is between 6-12 weeks and chronic is anything more than 3 months. However it is often not so clear cut as this. Many episodes of lower back pain feel as though they might run together, or 'flare up' at different points throughout the year. Its important to understand your body - your back and what factors are contributing to your symptoms, in order to best prevent forte episodes.
The prognosis for anyone with an acute episode is fairly good, with most resolving in 8 weeks, with around 50% of people resolving spontaneously in the first two weeks.
The exact cause of low back pain is often very difficult to identify, in fact there are numerous possible causes of back pain from muscles, soft connective tissues, joints, ligaments, cartilage and even blood vessels. Depending on the circumstances chronic stress, depression and obesity has been linked with the onset of acute and even chronic back pain. However, just because it is difficult, doesn't mean it should be overlooked. It's important you work with your Physio / healthcare professional to ensure a clear picture of what is causing your back pain is established.
Managing back pain:
The best advice for the treatment of acute back pain is to continue to remain active as tolerated. Continuing everyday activities may sound counterintuitive but if we stay at home and cooped up in bed we tend to get more stiff. By being active we can promote blood flow and nutrients flowing to the area and reducing muscular tension. Here are some things we can do to manage an acute episode:
1. Stretches – There is no reason not to completely avoid stretches. All stretches if done correctly are good. However stretching should not cause more severe pain.
2. Heat or ice – Local application of heat or ice can reduce pain. Neither is better or worse for the situation, all dependent on your preference
3. Medication – Paracetemol or anti-inflammation drugs can be used to help ease the pain. These classification of drugs are known as analgesics which dampen the central nervous systems ability to pick up pain signals. These medications should be used only as prescribed by your doctors since some anti-inflammatory drugs can have some side effects.
4. Physical therapy – Physical therapy can give you great relief and advice on how to further manage your pain. A good physio will diagnose the pain generating structure. Possibly use some manual therapy early on to help relieve symptoms. They can cater a specific stretch and exercise program to help you get through it. They can also identify possible triggers and help devise a plan to prevent another episode from occurring.
If you or someone you know is suffering with lower back pain, encourage them to seek help. It doesn't have to be a debilitating injury and with the right advice it can be overcome!