How physiotherapy can help with lower back pain

Man with back pain for physiotherapy

Man with back pain for physiotherapy

When back pain strikes, it can disrupt your whole life. Movements that were easy become difficult, painful and slow. You may have issues when getting up, walking, or sitting in your car or at your desk. The pain can sap you of energy and rob you of a good night’s sleep.

Lower back pain is much more common that you may think. Almost 85% of working Canadians will suffer from low back pain. The estimated medical costs of back pain alone are estimated at up to $12 billion per year.

What is lower back pain?

Low back pain (or non-specific lower back pain), happens when you haven’t injured yourself or have any underlying medical condition causing the pain. According to Back Care Canada:

“More than 90% of back and back-related leg pain is ‘benign’—that is, not caused by a serious underlying injury or disease… Most back pain is (also) acute, it comes on quickly and it doesn’t last very long.”

Lower back pain (also known as lumbago, or LBP) may be painful and restrict your movement, but it’s not usually medically serious, and will often improve over time. A personalised treatment plan devised by a physiotherapist can help restore your movement, speed up recovery and help you prevent your back pain reoccurring.

Lie flat or keep active?

Keep active! If you can’t get to a physiotherapist for a few days, you can help yourself by keeping active. This may seem counter-intuitive, but prolonged rest may make the pain worse rather than better. Gentle stretch exercises will help, as will hot and cold compression packs, which can be applied to the muscles in your back to help them relax. (These can be as simple as a hot water bottle and a packet of frozen vegetables!) If you spend much of your day sitting at a desk or in a vehicle, take regular breaks to stand, stretch, move around and keep mobile.

Your physiotherapist and lower back pain

As physiotherapists, we specialise in restoring function and movement through exercise therapy and manual therapy as required. Together, we work on a program of recovery and rehabilitation that you work through at home in between sessions at our clinic. You can be referred to a physiotherapist for back pain from your physician, or you can come to Active Care Physiotherapy direct.

How do you assess my back pain?

We start by:

  • Assessing what type of back pain you have
  • What may be causing it

This might include looking at your gait (the way you walk) and the way you move using your back. We might also check how your nerves are functioning. If we have any concerns that there is an underlying medical cause, such as spinal stenosis or a herniated disc, we will advise you to consult your physician.

We’ll suggest a treatment plan that includes:

  • Ways to relieve the pain
  • Ways to prevent back pain returning

Most lower back pain treatment plans are a combination of active therapies, manual therapies and lifestyle changes. To free yourself from back pain, you must be an active participant in this plan. Lower back pain isn’t solved in our clinic alone – it’s a team effort!

Active therapies

Active therapy consists of exercises and movements designed to improve the flexibility, mobility and strength of your lower back. We’ll devise a series of exercises just for you and your particular type of back pain, and show you how to do the exercises.

These will usually include:

  • Aerobic exercise that raises your heart rate and gets you moving about. we might suggest swimming or walking, or gentle gym work such as exercise bikes.
  • Daily stretching exercises, specifically designed to reduce tension in the core muscles around your spine and and improve flexibility. You can often do these at home or at work.
  • Core muscle exercises, designed to build the strength in muscles in your back, pelvis and stomach. Not everyone with back pain needs these exercises.

Manual therapies

This is the ‘hand on’ treatment many associate with physiotherapy. We will gently manipulate your back and spine to restore your normal range of movement and mobility. We may also do joint mobilizations to improve your range of motion and alleviate pain.

Lifestyle changes

Small changes to your lifestyle can make a lot of difference to your risk of back pain.

  • If your work involves sitting at a desk, ask your employer for an ergonomics assessment. A ergonomic chair with proper support chair or a standing desk will help you educe strain on your body. This also applies when sitting watching TV at home!
  • Take regular breaks form sitting or driving and so gentle stretches to keep supple and mobile, whether you’ve have back pain before or not.
  • Regular exercise keeps your back strong, your muscles toned and your weight down. You are at a much higher risk of back pain if you are overweight or smoke.
  • Check that your mattress on your bed is giving you sufficient support. Mattresses should be replaced every eight years, so it might be time to retire yours!
  • Ask us to show you the best way to lift heavier items using your legs, not your back. If your work involves heavy manual lifting, ask us for advice on keeping your back safe from injury.

Keeping on track with Physiotec

When we prescribe an exercise program during your initial visit it is stored on the site. We’ll give you a username and password so you can log onto the Physiotec site and access your personalized exercise plan anytime, alongside videos reminding you how to do the exercises.

Positive mental attitude

Being an active participant in your back pain treatment and recovery is good for your body and for your mental health. Our treatment plan enables you to manage the symptoms of back pain, and help your body recover. Many patients feel more confident and more positive once a treatment plan is in place. According to NHS England:

“It helps if you stay optimistic and recognise that your pain should get better, as people who manage to stay positive despite their pain tend to recover quicker.”

How to book physiotherapy for lower back pain

There really is no need to suffer for long periods with back pain. Call us for an appointment at Ingersoll, London or book online at either our London or Ingersoll physiotherapy clinics, and together we’ll start you on on your road to recovery.