Back pain is a common issue that affects many people at some point in their lives. Most back pain is short-lived and resolves within a few days or weeks, but for others, it can be chronic and disruptive to daily life. Whether your back pain is acute or chronic, there are steps you can take to reduce the discomfort and improve your quality of life. What causes back pain, and what can be done to treat it? Let’s explore this very important topic further.
Symptoms of Back Pain
Back pain can range from mild discomfort to severe pain. Common symptoms of back pain can include:
- Dull or sharp aches and pains
- Difficulty moving around
- Tight muscles
- Radiating pain in one or both legs.
If you are experiencing any of these symptoms it is important to consult with your physiotherapist as soon as possible to determine the cause of your back pain and find an effective treatment plan.
Common Types of Back Pain
Muscle strains involve a tear in the muscle fibers and result from overstretching or overloading of the muscle. Muscle strains can be classified based on severity as grades 1-3 with a grade 3 having the worst symptoms, which result from a complete tear. Proper treatment with modified rest and Physiotherapy is necessary to heal a strained muscle, ignoring it can prolong recovery time and worsen symptoms.
Joint sprains are one of the major causes of back pain and disability. When a joint sprain occurs, it can cause ligaments to stretch or tear, usually due to an unnatural movement of the joint or trauma.
A bulging disc is a very common source of lower back pain, tingling and numbness. It happens when the soft interior layer of a spinal disc begins to push out beyond its normal boundaries. A clinical assessment coupled with a MRI or CT scan can determine if a person has a bulging disc
Sciatica is a common back problem, which is defined as a shooting or burning pain that radiates down the back of your leg, usually on one side only. The source of this pain typically comes from irritation of the sciatic nerve, which is connected to the lower spine and runs through parts of your hip and buttock. Depending on the severity of the damage to your sciatic nerve, symptoms can either arise suddenly due to an acute injury like a herniated disc or it can take months to develop following repetitive trauma or sprain/strain on the back joints and muscles that eventually leads to inflammation and impingement of the sciatic nerve.
Scoliosis is a medical condition that affects the curvature of the spine, making it appear curved sideways when viewed from the back. It can affect children and adults alike, although it typically appears during growth spurts in young people, during adolescence.
Symptoms of scoliosis may include:
- Uneven level of shoulders
- One shoulder blade that appears more prominent than the other
- Asymmetrical waistline
- One hip higher than the other
- One side of the rib cage appears rotated
- A prominence on one side of the back when bending forward
Spondylolisthesis is an uncomfortable, yet common spinal condition. It occurs when one vertebra (bone) slips over another vertebra, often causing painful muscle, joint or nerve compression. Although the exact cause of spondylolisthesis is difficult to determine, poor posture, and activities that involve repetitive or heavy lifting, or a traumatic injury are generally regarded as risk factors.
Arthritis is a common condition that can cause pain and stiffness in various joints throughout the body, making it difficult to move without pain. Although the exact cause of arthritis is not known and there is currently no cure, however there are treatments available to help manage your symptoms and reduce the pain.
When Should I See a Physiotherapist?
You should see a physiotherapist if:
- Your pain has not subsided
- The discomfort is severe, and it restricts your daily movements or activities
- If you have numbness or tingling accompanying the pain
A physiotherapist will assess your condition and develop an appropriate treatment plan that can help you find relief and return to optimal health.
Treatments for Back Pain
Manual therapy and spinal mobilization techniques can be effective in treating people who suffer from back pain. These techniques apply pressure to specific areas of the spine, namely joints and soft tissues, helping to release tension and promote healing. Patients who are receiving manual therapy may benefit from improved range of motion, increased circulation, and increased flexibility.
Massage therapy and specifically trigger point release can help to manage and treat back pain. Trigger point release techniques are especially effective because they target specific areas of muscles, tendons, and ligaments that cause discomfort and limit movement. Trigger point massage helps to reduce pain promote healing, improve circulation, lengthen muscles, increase range of motion, and reduce psychological stress.
Laser & Ultrasound
Laser and ultrasound therapy are two types of treatment that are effective in alleviating acute and chronic back pain, thus enabling many people to return to their everyday activities. Laser therapy reduces inflammation and pain, as well as decreases spasm of muscles at the painful area, by bringing oxygen and nutrients to the injured area to promote healing. Ultrasound works to reduce pain, muscle spasm and inflammation through sound waves which increase circulation and stimulate tissue repair.
Shockwave therapy is becoming increasingly popular as a treatment for back pain and related conditions. This form of Physiotherapy has been proven effective in providing both immediate and long-term relief to sufferers of chronic back pain. It does this by sending pulses of high frequency sound waves directly into the damaged tissues, stimulating new cell growth and helping the tissue fibers to heal faster than normal. Shockwave therapy not only helps to relieve pain, but also decreases thickened tissue and scar tissue, increases blood flow and stimulates the release of tight muscle trigger points.
Cupping therapy is an ancient form of treatment that serves to address a variety of ailments, including back pain. It involves placing heated glass or plastic cups on the patient’s skin to create suction, creating a partial vacuum. This suction helps to increase blood flow, stimulate nerves, and relieve pain associated with musculoskeletal issues. Cupping can be beneficial for treating back pain due to its ability to relieve tension and muscle tightness and promote healing in the affected areas. It works by gently stretching muscles and fascia which encourages them to relax and move more freely.
A customized back exercise program plays an important role for people looking to treat their back pain and prevent a recurrence of their back injury. Back exercise programs are tailored to the individual and designed to help build core strength and increase flexibility. People who participate in a customized exercise program often report pain relief and increased mobility within a short period of time. Furthermore, increased strength, improved posture, decreased tension levels, and greater energy can provide a positive sense of wellness. Consulting a Physiotherapist about a customized exercise program can make a big difference in alleviating your back pain!
Spinal decompression is a solution for relieving back pain. It works by stretching the spine and distracting the vertebrae to decrease pressure on the discs, nerves and ligaments of the spine. This relieves pressure in the area which can mean a decrease in inflammation and a lessening of nerve-related symptoms such as pain, numbness, or tingling. It is also beneficial for increasing and restoring joint motion, improving circulation and stimulating the regeneration of damaged spinal tissue. Many patients find that they start experiencing relief after just a few sessions.
Acupuncture & IMS
Intramuscular Stimulation (IMS) also known as Dry Needling, is the insertion of a small mono-filament needle into a muscle to release dysfunctional muscle bands. Benefits of IMS/Acupuncture include increased range of motion, flexibility of the muscle fibers, and improved strength of the muscles to allow for better function of daily activities.
If you are experiencing back pain, it is essential to seek treatment from a qualified professional. Ignoring the symptoms can prolong recovery time and worsen symptoms. With the right treatment plan, you can find relief and return to optimal health.