The lower back area and lumbar spine is one of the most common places to experience pain. Pain can range from stiffness, dull aches, and lack of mobility all the way through to debilitating pain. Affecting four out of five people at some stage, lower backache (often referred to as Lumbago) is one of the most common complaints treated by osteopaths.
Acute lower back pain can include sharp, intense and debilitating pain that may be accompanied by shooting pain into the legs. Many patients can find daily tasks such as walking up and down stairs, putting on shoes or socks, or getting in and out of chairs or cars difficult. Long term lower back pain can include stiffness, dull achy pain that may come and go or remain constantly in one location. In some cases, nothing changes this sensation, it may be constant no matter what position they are in. Other patients feel this sensation first thing in the morning or only when leaning forward or backward.In the majority of cases low back pain is a result of long-term irritation to muscles, joints, or intervertebral discs in the back. This includes build-up of pressure from poor sitting postures, lifting techniques in manual jobs, or acute injury from an accident or sports. Even hobbies such as reading in bed or being slouched over a chair can provoke lower back pain.Symptoms of lower back pain can include: constant pain (dull or strong) in the lower back region, pain bending forward to pick up objects or put on shoes and socks, pain leaning backward or manoeuvring in and out of cars, pain when coughing, laughing, sneezing, or when initiating bowel movements, pain on walking, sitting, standing, or during sports, weakness sensation in the legs or back, pins and needles or numbness in the legs, and sharp pain when sitting (this can be either hard surfaces or soft chairs).
Causes of Back Pain. Very often, back pain is caused by straining musculo-skeletal structures in the back (muscles, ligaments, joints, etc.). Although often painful, most of these cases are not serious if treated appropriately and quickly, and usually respond to osteopathic treatment.
Treatment of Lower Back Pain: The lower back is like the crossroads of the entire body, so it is important when assessing and diagnosing lower back pain that we also look at the upper back above, and the pelvis and legs below. This can help identify the root cause of the problem, as restrictions in movement in any of these areas can cause pain in the lower back to due increased demands of movement placed onto the back. To speed up the healing process, lots of people choose to have manual therapy, such as osteopathy. For chronic back pain (lasting more than six weeks) treatment typically involves a combination of painkillers, exercise and manual therapy. Spinal surgery is usually only considered when all else has failed.If you have back pain, it is important to try to remain as active as possible and continue with your usual daily activities, as being inactive for extended periods of time is generally accepted as being bad for your back.Some people may take painkillers, such as paracetamol or ibuprofen, or muscle relaxants to reduce spasms and to give back pain relief. Hot or cold compression packs may also help reduce the pain.Altering the position in which you sleep can ease some of the strain on your back and ease the pain, so if you sleep on your side, try placing a pillow between your legs, or if you sleep on your back, place a pillow under the arch of your spine to maintain a comfortable position.Trying to relax is a crucial part of easing the pain because muscle tension caused by worrying about your condition can make things worse.Treatment and management of lower back pain will depend on what is found during the consultation, which category it falls into, and your individual presentation. Therefore, the treatment plan will be designed specifically for you.
Acute low back pain: often more gentle and slow techniques will ease the body out of the pain most effectively. The body appears to favour the ‘less is more’ approach at least when beginning the treatment plan. Once the body has let go of most of the pain and healed a lot of the damaged tissue treatments can be longer and involve more work.
Chronic lower back pain: often the pain becomes long term because the body has suffered for so long it tries to bury and ignore the back pain. Treatments will aim to resolve the root cause of the problem. In many cases only a handful of treatments are needed to resolve decades worth of backache.Your osteopath will always complete a case history (questionnaire) about your condition, examine your spine, and include some more medical tests if necessary to ensure that osteopathy is the correct and appropriate treatment for you (e.g. test your reflexes, blood tests, etc.).Before applying the gentle osteopathic techniques your osteopath will discuss your condition, explain the problem including the treatment and plan to help improve and resolve it. Exercises and advice on lifestyle and posture are often given when indicated.Whether your back pain is coming from disc, joint, bone, muscle, or ligament, it is important that the treatment you receive results is a swift resolution to your pain. It may be simple to avoid repetitive episodes, as back pain can be triggered by bad posture while sitting or standing, bending awkwardly, or lifting incorrectly.Osteopaths are experts in treating and rehabilitating lower back pain, with excellent results. Treatment may include the following; osteopathic mobilisation techniques of the spine and pelvic joints both rhythmically and also some stronger pressure to release tight joints. Spinal manipulation, may also be employed to release particularly irritated joints. Soft tissue techniques to ease muscle tension and deep tissue techniques to release spasms in gluteal and low back related muscles. In many cases temporary adjustments in walking, sitting, standing and sport postures may need to be employed to encourage the body back to normal. Self-care advice will be given, including functional exercises, movements, and stretches that you can do at home to help manage the pain yourself and prevent the injury from returning.