Low back pain is the most common diagnosis seen in physical therapy clinics, affects 85-90% of Americans, and is the second leading cause of visits to a doctor. So, considering all of that I think it is important for you to be educated. In this blog I will talk about what causes low back pain, what to do when you feel it, when to seek help, and what to expect from physical therapy.
What Causes Low Back Pain
The three most common causes of low back pain are:
– poor sitting posture
– frequent forward bending
– lifting heavy items
Although a previous trauma could also be a cause of low back pain, usually there is no apparent reason for sudden symptoms, and it is the repetitive strain on the structures around the lumbar spine is the main cause of low back pain.
What to do When You Feel Low Back Pain
If you are currently experiencing low back pain I suggest that you give yourself one or two days of rest (try not to strain your back in any way). After your period of rest you can start some gentle self-care exercises to help restore mobility and decrease pain you may be feeling. Poor posture is the #1 cause of low back pain, so it is important to maintaining proper posture at all times.
When to Seek Help
It is very important to remember that low back pain can be a serious problem. If the pain is so bad that is prevents you from exercising, or if it continues for more than 2-3 weeks, you need a visit to a physician, physical therapist, or other health care provider immediately.
There are also a few signs and symptoms that require immediate medical attention.
These include, but are not limited to:
– Loss of muscular control. If sudden loss of muscular control in the hip, thigh, calf, shin, or toes occurs, you need to seek medical attention.
– Loss of bowel or bladder function. This is considered a medial emergency if it occurs with onset of low back pain, seek immediate medical attention.
– History of cancer or metastatic disease. This is a rare occurrence, but it is always a good idea to see a physician if you have a recent onset of low back pain and a history of cancer.
– Recent significant trauma. This is also rare, but low back pain can be brought on by trauma such as falls or motor vehicle accidents. If you have suffered a significant trauma that has caused acute low back pain you should a visit a physician to rule out fracture before starting treatment.
What Should You Expect from Physical Therapy
Now that you know more about low back pain I want to talk to you a little bit about what you can except when seeking help from a physical therapist.
What happens during your initial appointment is an initial evaluation, so be prepared to move around quite a bit. It is important to wear comfy clothes that allow for movement, and also make sure that your lower back is easily accessible – a shirt and pants does the trick.
The initial evaluation performed by your therapist will consist of several different parts. First thing he/she will do is compile a history of your present problem by discussing symptoms as well as what activities or positions make your symptoms better (or worse). Sometime he/she will also ask special questions to help the therapist determine the nature of your problem, and figure out if anything needs immediate medical attention.
Your therapist will also take measurements of how you are moving, which includes measuring your range of motion and strength. After the assessment is done the results will be studied and from them a specific treatment plan will be devised and started.
One thing I will remind you is that it is important to remember to be an active participant in your treatment and don’t be afraid to ask questions if you are unsure of what to do.
So – if after reading this you’ve decided that it’s time for you to see a physical therapist we are here to help. Give us a call at 201-585-7300, or you can also fill out our contact form online.