Lower back pain can be debilitating, frustrating and downright painful. More than 90% of the population will experience lower back pain at some point during their life. It’s hard to give a definitive answer on the cause of lower back pain, as it can result from a number of diverse factors or underlying conditions.

Did you know that lower back pain is one of the most common reasons for people having days off work? It is second only to the common cold. Headaches are said to be the most complained about condition in the world and lower back pain is listed as the second most-complained about condition.

It’s not all doom and gloom though. Many people presenting with lower back pain can find relief and even cure by undertaking a program of physical therapy and holistic rehabilitation.

What are the main causes?

Generally, most lower back pain can be resolved within a few weeks, although for a small percentage of people, back pain is more serious and longer term rehabilitation (and possibly surgery) may be required. Back pain usually results from some form of trauma to the body, for example lifting something that is too heavy, prolonged activities that place strain on the back (like gardening), a bad fall, a sports injury or even sleeping in the incorrect position.

Lower back pain can be defined under a few different categories. The most common include:

  • Bulging disc/herniated disc: where a disc in the back is injured, placing pressure on surrounding nerves
  • Postural loading: poor ergonomics, weak core muscles, hunching and sleeping position can all result in postural loading and lower back pain
  • Chronic/Degenerate: pain resulting from general wear and tear of the lower back joints and muscles
  • Facet joint: Where a joint in the back becomes inflamed, placing pressure on nerves. A facet joint injury is usually accompanied by spasm of the overlying muscles
  • Muscular strain or spasm: May occur due to a direct trauma or injury to the muscles or as a protective response by the body to avoid pressure on an inflamed joint or injured disc.

How do you find relief?

Wherever the back is concerned it’s advisable to see a physiotherapist who can correctly diagnose your condition and develop an associated treatment and rehabilitation program. Most lower back conditions respond very well to physical therapy and symptoms are alleviated and often do not return.  A physiotherapy program will help to decrease pain, increase your range of movement and educate you on prevention strategies. Treatment options commonly include heat or cold treatment, electrotherapy, stretching, strengthening exercises, core stability and low impact activity. Joint mobilisation and massage therapy are also likely to feature in your rehabilitation program.