Low back pain is one of the most common sites for pain in the American population. Since back pain can caused by several different things, it is very important to see your doctor when you experience symptoms. Pain can range from dull, nagging or aching to stabbing, burning or shooting. Nerve symptoms such as numbness and tingling may occur as well. Severe back pain can also produce symptoms in the butt or legs. There are three different categories of musculoskeletal back pain: Postural, Overuse and Injury.
Poor posture is a common culprit when the pain begins ‘all of a sudden’. It is caused by holding your body in a position that is not natural. Common causes are slump sitting on the couch, in the car or at work. You may want to think about which activities cause the pain to start. For example, if you feel back pain after working at your desk, readjusting your posture, computer monitor or chair may help.
Overuse injuries commonly start as a small nag and get increasingly worse over time. They are caused by doing the same movement over and over again over a long period of time. For example: lifting a pot from the cabinet usually will not hurt your back, but bending and lifting that same pot every day for 20 years will.
Injuries are the last cause of pain. This is when you can identify as specific incident that caused you pain. Things like: car accidents, falls and feeling “pops” or “snaps” while pulling an object fall into this category.
In any of these incidents you will first want to contact your doctor. The doctor will check for injuries to muscles, discs and bones. After any initial swelling has subsided the doctor may refer you to a physical therapist. A physical therapist will help stretch your muscles to regain your range of motion and to reduce pain and tightness. Modalities such as Cold Laser, Dry Needling, massage, E-stim, traction, heat and cold may be used in conjunction with exercise to reduce pain, swelling and spasm.
Once your range of motion is restored your muscles will be ready to strengthen. Strengthening is an important step in recovery to prevent reoccurrence of symptoms. Your therapist may also instruct you in postural re-education, proper body mechanics and other ways to reduce strain on the injured area.
Back pain is easiest to treat at the first signs. As the pain persists your body learns to compensate for the pain. Your body’s compensation can alter your walking pattern and posture. This will cause tightness and pain in the muscles around the original injury. The longer one goes on “dealing with the pain” the longer it will take to recover. Consult your doctor or physical therapist with any questions you may have and remember: It is your back, treat it right.