Back pain is the most common cause of disability affecting everyone from the elite athlete to general population. While more than two thirds of people affected by low back pain will improve from the acute stage within a three month period, nearly half are likely to experience a recurrent episode and one third may become a chronic condition.
Back pain can originate from a joint, ligament, disc, muscle, fascia, or nerve tissue. In some cases, there are multiple contributing factors to one’s back pain. The pain can be mechanically driven, usually involving a movement limitation between vertebrae or due to tensile limitations of a muscle or group of muscles and are often referred to as sprains or strains. The anatomy of the back is comprised of large postural muscles, resilient bony vertebrae protecting the spinal cord and numerous thick connective ligaments for stability. Between each vertebra are intervertebral discs that provide a cushion for force absorption. Not only are the postural muscles present but also, muscles used for rotation, bending and shoulder blade control. Furthermore, a vast expanse of myofascial tissue lies over the soft tissues to provide increased connective support.
The back is inherently a robust structure, designed to endure postures and workloads of the day. This being said, the back can be exposed to overuse and over-loading in demanding environments such as labour-intensive jobs and also desk work involving prolonged sitting. A desk-oriented job may not appear labour intensive, however for the postural muscles of the back, sitting for extended periods can be quite strenuous, leading to overloading of tissues. The back is meant to move to share load among it’s many tissues, when stagnant the same tissues in the back can become overloaded and often become painful.
In the lower back, nerves exit the spine and travel down into the lower limbs. Occasionally, pain in the legs can be linked to the back due the nerve tissue referral. When considering nerve-related pain, commonly reported associated symptoms are pins and needles, numbness, temperature changes on the skin. Intervertebral discs lay between each bony vertebrae providing force absorption for the spine. In case of disc herniation or prolapse due to overloading or high force trauma, the protrusion of the disc may encroach on the nerve root exiting the spinal cord. This can result in physical pressure from the disc on the nerve or an inflammatory response near the nerve leading to pain referral in the lower limbs. Mechanically-related back pain is often associated with improper loading, heavy strain, repetitive movements, or prolonged and awkward postures. The nerve tissue can also become affected from a mechanically driven mechanism of injury. Movement deficits and imbalances of biomechanics can be identified by your physiotherapist to target tissues requiring rehabilitation.
Some common acute or traumatic back pain may include:
- Paraspinal muscle strain
- Facet joint sprain
- Intervertebral disc injury
- Acute radiculopathy - nerve pain
- Costotransverse joint sprain
- Costovertebral joint sprain
- Rib fracture/ stress fracture
Some common atraumatic (non-traumatic) causes of back pain may include:
- Disc degeneration
- Facet joint arthropathy
- Scheuermann's disease
- Myofascial back pain
What can I do about my back pain? Tips and general Information:
- If you find your back pain is predominantly while working at a desk, try setting a timer on your watch or phone as a reminder to change your posture. Stand up, change your sitting position, or have a short walk to allow your back to move in a different way. This may help to decrease the fatiguing effects of prolonged sitting or standing postures.
- Sit back in your chair an relax on the chairback - don't perch. You mind find a back support provides some relief.
- Gentle stretches, reaching gently for your toes, gentle rotations of the back and extensions of the low back can help to relieve feelings of muscle tension and stiffness.
- Alternating between a heat pack and cold pack on the back can also provide some relief.
- Gentle rocking of the knees side to side when lying on the back with the knees bent up and glute bridging exercises (pelvic lifts) can help improve mobility, reduce pain and gently train some back and hip muscles. Along with general physical activity and exercise, back health and function has shown to improve very well.
How can a physio help my back pain?
PhysioTec is your choice for physiotherapy for back pain in Brisbane. There are many potential options for management depending on your condition and your personal needs and goals. Physiotherapy for back pain at PhysioTec may include:
- A thorough patient interview and physical assessment
- An evaluation of possible underlying causes, particularly important for long standing or recurrent conditions (Please book a 1 hour session)
- Education and personalised advice about how to best manage your back condition and speed your recovery
- A tailored and progressive exercise program, including video-based exercises on a free App and/or colour photographs and typed text instructions
- Real time ultrasound assessment and training of back and pelvic muscles
1. Is there a good position to sleep in for back pain?
Depending on the nature of your back pain, you may benefit from sleeping on your side with a pillow between your knees. Sleeping on your side can help to alleviate compressive forces on the vertebrae. If you prefer sleeping on your back, you may put a pillow under your knees to slightly elevate the legs and to tilt the pelvis backward slightly. This posterior tilting of the pelvis can provide some relief for the low back.
2. What is the most common cause of back pain?
Back pain is commonly associated with overloading of tissues, muscle tissues and joints are commonly overloaded from repetitive lifting, bending twisting and stagnant postures. The back is meant to move, therefore being stuck in one position or repeating the same movement continually can increase the risks of a painful strain or sprain.
3. How do I know if my back pain is serious?
Back pain will often improve significantly within a couple weeks under no medical management, however may resolve faster with professional help. If your back pain is persistent, un-relenting with rest or your condition worsens, the team at PhysioTec will thoroughly evaluate your condition and will recommend the best treatment options for you.
If you notice any obvious muscle weakness (e.g. unable to lift the toes/foot when swinging your leg through when walking) or if you have an acute onset of back pain and are having any difficulty passing urine, seek medical attention immediately.
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