Back Pain – and how to treat it

Lower back pain affects up to 80% of the population at some stage in their lives and is one of the most common reasons for visits to a GP in Australia. Back pain is the single most common complaint we get here at Lane Cove Physio. As a result, we have developed effective treatment approaches for all types of back pain.

Chronic lower back pain

Chronic lower back pain is pain that lasts longer than the usual recovery timeframe for acute lower back pain of 4-6 weeks. Chronic lower back pain, much like the acute version, is also unlikely to be related to any significant damage.

There are factors that we call “yellow flags” that help us predict who is likely to recover quickly and who is likely to end up with chronic pain. Yellow flags include things like high levels of stress and anxiety, beliefs and fears that movement and exercise is going to do further damage and a pathology focused attitude (e.g “my disc is damaged so I cannot lift anything). The most important thing to remember if suffering from chronic lower back pain is that pain is very rarely related to any physical damage in the spine.

We know this because numerous studies have shown that there is a very poor correlation between symptoms and radiological findings. Imaging will almost always show “abnormalities” such as disc bulges or degeneration but these are not correlated with back pain and are consistently seen in pain-free populations. In fact up to 60% of the population will have a disc bulge by the age of 50, but will have no pain, no symptoms and no idea about it unless they have an MRI.

Acute lower back pain

So you were lifting the BBQ on the weekend and you “felt something go” and have been in agony ever since….what does this mean!?

The good news is that serious back injuries are rare. In fact in around 95% of cases there is no evidence of damage on CT scan, MRI or X-ray so we can put the pain down to minor ligament or muscle sprains. We can “sprain” our back just like we can sprain our ankles and they heal in the same way. If you start to walk on your ankle after a couple of days it starts to get better and will normally be fine again within 2 weeks. Lower back pain will also respond in the same way as long as we start to move it again as soon as possible.

Having a physiotherapy session within the first 48hours of injury can significantly reduce recovery time and help you get back to doing what you love sooner. There are a variety of pain free techniques we can use to get the spine moving freely again and most patients walk out feeling drastically improved.

The most important thing to remember is that an active recovery is the best recovery.

Treatment

There are a variety of treatment options available, all with varying levels of evidence to support them.

There is conclusive evidence that an active recovery is the most effective and this becomes even more effective if it is combined with physiotherapy in the early stages and education about the natural course of low back pain.

SERVICE UPDATE

During these unprecedented times, we’d like to assure you that our clinic is open and safe to attend.

We have taken extra measures to ensure our rooms are disinfected and cleaned on each visit and adhere to social distancing as required.

Although we are seeing patients in the clinic as normal, we are offering extra services for any "at risk" patients via home-visits or tele-health online physio.

All Physiotherapy, Hydrotherapy and Exercise Physiology appointments will still be available in the clinic, at home and online via tele-health. Please call us on 9428 5772 to organise a time or email us at [email protected]

Stay healthy and we hope to see you in the clinic soon.

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