What to Do When Your Back Hurts
- Posted on: Nov 21 2018
Did you know that over 50% of people suffer from recurring back pain and/or have persistent chronic pain following their injury? In fact, a study following people 5 years after their first episode of pain revealed that they reported a significant decline in their overall quality of life, with pain directly impacting their livelihoods and daily functional abilities. Low back pain affects nearly everyone at some point in their life. It has many names/diagnosis such as osteoarthritis, degenerative disc disease, degenerative joint disease, spinal stenosis, and “sciatica”. Typical aggravators of low back pain include excessive bending at the back vs. the waist, poor sustained sitting posture, age-related postural changes, poor lifting mechanics, poor sleeping position, and coughing/sneezing in a stooped posture.
So, what do you do when you experience an acute episode of low back pain? Years ago the standard treatment for new injury was recommended bed rest. However, while this may be the most appropriate solution within the first 24-48 hours after initial injury due to pain severity, the most ideal solution is to find positioning and motions of the spine that will facilitate healing/recovery while promoting activity and normal return to function. This can be determined by a thorough examination and evaluation by your physical therapist in order to help appropriately diagnose the cause of injury and to facilitate optimal healing. Based on your presentation, your physical therapist can determine if your pain is caused by underlying factors such as mechanical pain, immunological impairments, osteoarthritis or pathological injury.
The most common, and easiest back injury to treat, is mechanical pain. This is caused by prolonged overstretching of ligaments supporting the spine and/or damage to these ligaments resulting in disc degeneration/injury. This is often a result of impairment of the multiple moving parts of the spine from sustained or repeated postures and/or severe trauma to the spine. Often, the spinal nerve becomes irritated due to impaired movement of the spinal joints resulting in symptoms such as numbness, tingling, pain, and/or sensory loss. If the nerve damage is allowed to progress, muscle weakness with changes in walking and balance can be impacted as well. Because low back pain can worsen rapidly, it is important to attempt to manage and/or treat your symptoms as quickly as possible. Initial interventions should include correction of sitting posture to avoid stooped or slumped positioning, avoid excessive sitting > 30 minute intervals, appropriate stretching to restore normal spinal motion, use of heat/ice depending on the which provides you the greatest degree of pain relief, and consideration of physical therapy.
Evaluating and treating your symptoms early on can and will prevent progressive injury and will also help minimize risk for recurrent/chronic pain presentation. If you are one of the many individuals suffering from acute or chronic low back pain, Advanced Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation can provide you with a comprehensive examination and evaluation in order to provide you with an individual, customized treatment plan that will optimize return to function.
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