If you are suffering from back pain, whether it’s new or chronic, you are not alone. About 80% of the population will suffer from back pain at some point in their lives. Fortunately, there are healthcare professionals with the expertise to help inform your choices regarding the management and treatment of your back pain.
Why do I have back pain?
There are many reasons for back pain. In some cases, the cause of the lower back pain is more obvious. Back pain may occur after lifting a heavyweight at the gym, when bending and twisting to take the laundry out of the washing machine, or when lifting a grandchild off the floor. In other cases, the cause of back pain is less obvious. Some people may have a gradual increase of pain, occurring over weeks or months. Others may wake up with back pain that has no clear mechanism. This type of back pain is labeled as insidious. On very rare occasions, individuals present with a red flag condition, that is more medical and requires referral and attention by a specialist. However, back pain is most commonly a non-emergent condition that can be appropriately assessed and treated by a physiotherapist.
How can physiotherapy help with back pain?
Physiotherapists are experts in movement. They have training and experience in the assessment, diagnosis, treatment, and management of orthopedic injuries and conditions. When seeing a physiotherapist for your back pain, they will gather an extensive history of your pain, objectively assess the area and surrounding anatomy, and work with you to develop an individualized treatment plan to achieve your goals. Your physiotherapist may also make referrals in the case that your back pain requires imaging (X-ray, MRI, etc.) or specialist referral.
What types of conditions can physiotherapists help treat?
In some cases, you may have received a diagnosis that is the likely cause of your back pain. Physiotherapy can help with many of these including, but not limited to, the following:
- Herniated disc
- Ankylosing spondylitis
If you do not have a diagnosis, don’t worry! In most cases, there is no diagnosis for the cause of back pain. Physiotherapy can still help!
What types of treatment can help with back pain?
Depending on your presentation and your goals, different treatments may be more appropriate for you. The following are some treatments that may be helpful to reduce back pain:
- Education (cause of pain, pain management at home, lifestyle changes, pacing, etc.)
- Exercise (strengthening, stretching, task-specific demands, etc.)
- Manual therapy (soft tissue release, mobilizations, special techniques, etc.)
- Massage therapy
- Modalities (TENS, heat, ice, etc)
Do I need a prescription for physiotherapy?
In Alberta, you do not need a prescription for physiotherapy.
How long until you can expect results?
Every case of back pain is different. Recovery depends on a variety of different factors including the severity of the injury or condition, age, life stressors, sleep, and nutrition.
After an episode of back pain, it is more likely that you will have back pain again in the future. Therefore, it is important to seek the advice of a professional to ensure optimal recovery and prevention of future re-injury. If you have elevated levels of back pain or persisting back pain, it may be a good time to talk to your family physician or physiotherapist.