Low back pain, or more commonly known as back pain, can result from many different injuries, conditions or illnesses – most commonly, an injury to the muscles or tendons of the back.
Pain can range from mild to severe. In some cases, the pain can make it difficult or impossible to walk, sleep, work or perform daily activities.
Usually, lower back pain improves with rest, pain medication and physical therapy. Some back injuries and conditions require more aggressive intervention such as injections or surgery.
Approximately four out of five people suffer from low back pain at some point in their lives. This is one of the most common reasons why people see physiotherapists.
Symptoms of low back pain may appear suddenly or gradually or may have been present for a very long time (chronic pain). Sometimes the pain occurs after a specific event, such as bending over to pick something up. Other times, you may not know what caused the pain.
The pain may be sharp or dull and aching, and it may radiate to your buttocks or the back of your legs (sciatica). If you strain your back during an activity, you may hear a “pop” when this happens. The pain is often worse in certain positions (such as bending over) and gets better when you lie down.
Many people with back pain have difficulty standing. You may stand “crooked” or bent over, with your torso to the side rather than aligned with your spine. Your lower back may feel flat instead of curved.
Other symptoms of low back pain include stiffness and muscle spasms.

What causes low back pain?

  • Sprains: Back sprains are the most common cause of back pain.
  • Fractures: the bones of the spine can break in an accident, such as a car crash or a fall.
  • Disc problems: Discs cushion the vertebrae (small bones in the spine). Discs can bulge from their position in the spine and press on a nerve. They can also tear (herniate). With age, the discs can become flatter and offer less protection (osteoarthritis).
  • Structural problems: A condition called spinal stenosis occurs when the spine is too narrow for the spinal cord. Something that pinches the spinal cord can cause severe sciatic nerve pain and back pain.
  • Arthritis: Osteoarthritis is the most common type of arthritis that causes back pain.
  • Disease: Spinal tumors, infections and several types of cancer can cause back pain. Other conditions can also cause back pain. These include kidney stones and abdominal aortic aneurysm.
  • Spondylolisthesis: This condition causes the vertebrae of the spine to slip out of place.

How is low back pain diagnosed?

Your physical therapist or physician will ask you questions about your symptoms and perform a physical therapy exam. To check for fractures or other damage, your physical therapist or doctor may order imaging studies. These studies help your physical therapist see clear images of your vertebrae, discs, muscles, ligaments and tendons.
Depending on the cause of the pain, your physical therapist may also suggest that you order blood or urine tests. Blood tests can detect genetic markers for certain conditions that cause back pain (such as ankylosing spondylitis). Urine tests check for kidney stones, which cause pain in the flank (the sides of the lower back).

What are the treatments for low back pain in physical therapy?

The McKenzie Method: This treatment method, centered on the active participation of the patient, has convinced many practitioners around the world. It can be used for the evaluation, treatment, education and empowerment of patients with back, neck and limb pain.

The Mulligan Concept: This approach to the treatment of, among other things, low back pain of the spine, consists of the simultaneous application of a passive accessory movement by the physiotherapist and an active physiological movement generated by the patient. The immediate effects of these techniques are explained by the correction of alterations in the articular position and by neurophysiological effects that have been proven by scientific research published in the best international journals.
Lumbar Mechanical Traction: Spinal Decompression Traction Therapy is an effective therapy for the treatment of lower back and sciatic nerve pain caused by herniated or deteriorated discs. For most patients, spinal decompression therapy reduces their pain and allows them to return to a more active lifestyle. Also called non-surgical decompression therapy, spinal traction works by increasing the space between the vertebrae, which decreases pressure on the intervertebral discs and the nerve roots they touch. Spinal decompression therapy also helps muscles stretch and relax, which can reduce muscle spasms (back spasms) that irritate nerves and cause pain.

Sports Physiotherapy: After controlling the lower back pain, the physiotherapist will show you therapeutic exercises to increase lumbar flexibility, lumbar and abdominal strength and muscular endurance.

Can I prevent lower back pain?

To reduce your risk of back injury, you should:
– Maintain a healthy weight
– Maintain flexibility and strength of the lumbar spine with exercises guided by physical therapy.
– Practice good body mechanics: ask your physiotherapist to show you good body mechanics when standing and sitting.