By Cheung Teav, P.T. –
Next to the common cold, low back pain is the most common reason individuals visit a physician’s office, resulting in billions of dollars in medical expenditures and lost labor costs each year. Low back pain is also one of the most common reasons patients visit the emergency room in the U.S. In 2008, U.S. hospitals had roughly 3.4 million emergency department visits—an average of 9,400 a day—specifically for back problems. Approximately 75 to 85 percent of adults will be affected by low back pain during their lifetimes.
What Causes Low Back Pain?
The lower back is subject to a lot of stress and strain due to the weight of the upper body. Supporting all that upper body weight is the spine, which is made up of more than 30 small bones called vertebrae, stacked one on top of the other. A spongy piece of cartilage, called a disc, sits between each vertebra. It acts as a shock absorber, preventing the bony vertebrae from grinding against one another. With age, these cushioning discs gradually wear away and shrink, a condition known as degenerative disc disease. Symptomatic lumbar degenerative disc disease develops when a disc weakens (often due to repetitive strain), is injured, or deteriorates from aging. As a result, the disc is unable to hold the vertebrae as it should and the lack of stability can cause back pain.
Discs can also tear or become injured. Sometimes the weakening of a disc can put pressure on its jelly-like center. That pressure can lead to a herniated disc (also called a “slipped disc” or “ruptured disc”) in which the center of the disc bulges. Sometimes that bulging causes the material from inside the disc to press on the sensitive nerves that carry messages to the brain. A herniated disc in the lower back can put pressure on the nerve that extends down the spinal column. This commonly causes pain to radiate to the buttocks and all the way down the leg, causing pain that can be excruciating. This condition is called sciatica.
Physical Therapy an Effective Non-Surgical Treatment
A review article published in the February 2009 Journal of the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons recommends that in most cases of symptomatic lumbar degenerative disc disease, the most effective treatment is Physical Therapy combined with anti-inflammatory medications (NSAIDs). The review concludes that, in most patients with low back pain, symptoms resolve without surgical intervention. It also states that Physical Therapy and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs are the “cornerstones” of non-surgical treatment.
Tips for Easing Low Back Pain
If you sit in an uncomfortable chair all day or regularly twist your body into uncomfortable positions, your lower back will suffer for it. Smoking — a bad habit that increases the risk of numerous diseases — can also lead to backaches. One study found that smokers are nearly a third more likely to have low back pain compared to nonsmokers. Following are several tips to prevent or ease low back pain:
- Keep moving and stay active. Do exercises to strengthen the muscles that support your back — especially the abdominals, hips, back, and pelvic area. Developing strong core muscles can make a big difference in how your back feels.
- Practice good posture when you sit or stand. When lifting something, lift with your knees, not with your back.
- If you smoke, ask your doctor for help on how to kick the habit.
Improving the Effectiveness of Care
Physical Therapists can help patients develop a safe and effective exercise program that is tailored to an individual’s specific needs and goals. Supplementing exercise with Hands-On Physical Therapy to mobilize the spine can be beneficial for many patients. In addition, helping strengthen your core muscle groups, including the abdominal wall and lumbar musculature, has positive effects on patients with low back pain.
Patient education to remain active and use appropriate body mechanics is beneficial. Physical Therapists are trained to identify which of these treatment strategies will be most effective for an individual patient, which further improves the effectiveness of care.
Physical Therapy: A Top Treatment Choice
Physical Therapy ranks among the top treatment choices of Consumer Reports readers with back pain, according to a 2009 survey of more than 14,000 Americans with back pain. Physical Therapist treatment and other “hands-on” therapies outranked treatment by medical specialists and primary care providers, a result that should encourage patients to seek conservative options as a first line of treatment for their back pain, saving them significant money.
Custom Physical Therapy Programs
At Pinnacle Medical Group Therapy and Wellness Center, your Physical Therapy program is based on our integrated team-approach to quality medical care, designed to restore mobility, reduce pain, and increase fitness levels. Our team of credentialed Physical Therapists evaluate and treat various diagnoses to improve and enhance function. Their advanced training ensures proper evaluation and quality of treatment customized to each patient’s specific needs. To learn more or to schedule an appointment, please call 941-748-8383 or visit us online at pmgpa.com. Let us help you be free from pain and improve the quality of your life!
PINNACLE Physical Therapy
4110 Manatee Avenue West, Bradenton, FL 34205