The low back supports the weight of the upper body and provides mobility for everyday motions such as bending and twisting. Muscles in the low back are responsible for flexing and rotating the hips while walking, as well as supporting the spinal column. Nerves in the low back supply sensation and power the muscles in the pelvis, legs, and feet.
Most acute low back pain results from injury to the muscles, ligaments, joints, or discs. The body also reacts to injury by mobilizing an inflammatory healing response. While inflammation sounds minor, it can cause severe pain.
There is a significant overlap of nerve supply to many of the discs, muscles, ligaments, and other spinal structures, and it can be difficult for the brain to accurately sense which is the cause of the pain. For example, a degenerated or torn lumbar disc can feel the same as a pulled muscle – both creating inflammation and painful muscle spasm in the same area. Muscles and ligaments heal rapidly, while a torn disc may or may not. The time course of pain helps determine the cause.
Range of Lower Back Pain Symptoms
Low back pain can incorporate a wide variety of symptoms. It can be mild and merely annoying or it can be severe and debilitating. Low back pain may start suddenly, or it could start slowly possibly coming and going and gradually get worse over time.
Depending on the underlying cause of the pain, symptoms can be experienced in a variety of ways.
Physiotherapy for low back pain
For many patients it is best to follow a stretching routine that has been individually designed for them by a physical therapist or a spine physician. As a general rule, low back pain patients should focus on stretching the lower back muscles, abdominal muscles, hips, and legs.
When to see a physio
If your back pain is not settling with simple self-care options it can be helpful to make an appointment to see a physio. Your physio can provide treatment to relieve the pain and they can also teach you how to look after your back and prevent future episodes. If you have a long-term back problem the physio can design a suitable exercise program for you.Find a physiotherapist near you.
Other indications that it is time to call your physio include:
Back pain following trauma
A spinal health care professional can assist you a prompt diagnosis, early referral, acute and chronic back pain relief, plus long-term self-management or back pain prevention strategies specific to your back pain. You should feel confident that your practitioner has screened you for specific pathologies that require urgent medical attention. Plus they should also assess you for any neurological deficits such as loss of bowel or bladder function, leg muscle weakness, loss of sensation, diminished reflexes and day-to-day function to determine whether you have a radiculopathy or stenosis, which may require different treatment options to nonspecific low back pain or radicular pain.
For specific guidance regarding your condition, please seek the individual assessment from a health practitioner with a special interest in back pain, such as a musculoskeletal physiotherapist.