What causes back pain ?
There are various mechanisms for the production and existence of back pain, including poor posture, which can place undue stress upon your spine. Ligaments can be over-stretched, muscles fatigue and as a result place joints and nerves under increased pressure.
Minor back muscles strains quickly improve on their own, but more severe stains will require physiotherapy treatment to relieve pain and promote healing.
Stretching ligaments too far or too quickly can result in tears which cause inflammation and bleeding into the surrounding tissues and typically results in production of pain. Common causes of ligament sprains are motor vehicle accidents and sporting injuries.
Discs are anchored to the vertebrae, above and below, so they cannot ‘slip’ out of place. They can wear down with age, but most disc problems arise from injury. Discs can bulge (prolapsed), become herniated or even rupture which can cause nerve compressions, difficulties of movement and significant pain.
The sciatic nerve exits the spinal column at the lower lumbar region and runs through the buttocks and travels down the back of your leg. Irritation anywhere along this pathway will cause pain, and often dysfunction, in the back and legs.
Vertebral and facet joints are commonly affected by arthritis, causing degeneration and inflammation within the joint. In severe forms of arthritis pathologies it is not uncommon to see the growth of bony spurs on the edges of the vertebrae. This commonly causes a loss of joint range of motion, muscle weakness and pain production.
Recent research has shown that weakness of the deep abdominal muscles can contribute to increased strain on the lower back. Your physiotherapist will be able to use a range of techniques to assess for proper muscle functioning and improve core strength through exercise prescription.
How your back works?
You back is a complex system of interlocking components
Vertebrae are the bones that make up the spinal column and provide a protective cage for the spinal column.
Discs separate the vertebrae and facilitate movement, they additionally act as shock absorbers
Facet joints between the vertebrae guide spinal movement
Ligaments hold the vertebrae together
Muscles are attached to the bones to control and produce movement. They additionally serve to protect the spinal column
Tips to help you move and stay well
Here are some useful tips and advice to help you prevent back pain:
With your feet shoulder-width apart, bend at the hips and knees. Grip the load firmly and hold it close to your body, tighten your stomach muscles and use the strong muscles of your legs to lift. Keep your back as straight as possible, and gently breathe out. Avoid twisting – turn by using your feet, not your back. Poor technique is a common cause of back pain.
Think tall: chest lifted, shoulders relaxed, chin tucked in and head level. Posture should be stable, balanced and relaxed, when sitting, walking or standing.
Don’t stay seated for too long, ideally no more than 20 minutes. Stand up, stretch and walk around. The right back support will also help. Also ensure that your workstation and computer are correctly positioned.
Stay in shape – healthy body-weight reduces the strain on your back. Your physiotherapist can show you how to keep your back flexible and strong with correct back and abdominal exercises.
Good support from your car seat will help to prevent back pain. If you need more lower back support, you can use a lumbar roll or rolled up towel.
Your mattress should be firm enough to support your natural shape.
How Physiotherapy can help
Almost all Australian doctors refer patients with back pain to physiotherapists in preference to other health practitioners. Depending upon the cause and type of pain, physiotherapists treat back pain in a variety of ways:
- Advice and early activity (recent research indicates that one of the most important treatments for low back pain is movement)
- Mobilisation/manipulation physiotherapy.
- McKenzie therapy.
- Specific stabilisation exercises.
- General exercises and stretches
- Ergonomic advice
- Postural advice