Low back pain is so common 8 of 10 people experience it at some time in their lives. Although the pain in your back may be severe, most low back pain is not due to a serious problem. Usually, back pain is felt in the lower back and buttocks. Sometimes the nerves get irritated and cause leg pain and numbness and tingling in the toes. There are many risk factors that increase the chances of getting low back pain. The common risks result from lifestyle factors, such as sitting too much, being in poor physical condition, and bending and lifting improperly. Stress and lack of sleep can make the pain worse. As we get older, we often feel more back pain due to weakened muscles and stiffening joints.
Often low back pain can be severe enough to make a patient think that an MRI is necessary. While MRI provides excellent pictures of your anatomy, it may not be able to pinpoint the specific source of your pain.
MRI findings of herniated lumbar disks are commonly seen in individuals with and without low back pain. Some studies show that up to 90% of healthy individuals over the age of 60 have findings of bulging discs on MRI. Further, the rapid decision to perform imaging following an acute episode of low back pain may not be justified or warranted, considering the fact that many patients show signs of recovery shortly after the onset of low back pain. While a referral for imaging is indicated to rule out serious problems, it should not be used as a method to guide routine decision making about how best to treat low back pain. It is estimated that half of all performed CT scans and one third of MRIs of the low back are not necessary. In fact, some individuals should not undergo an MRI scan.
For people with low back pain, the good news is that your back will likely feel better, even though the pain may be severe. Staying active is important, and bed rest should be avoided. If you are worried that your pain may not subside, your physical therapist can teach you ways to help you move better and recover faster. Based on your examination, the best treatment for acute low back pain may be manual therapy (mobilization/ manipulation) and exercises that restore motion and decrease pain in the leg that is linked to your low back pain. Exercises that improve coordination, strength, and endurance are best added to treatment once the pain lessens. If your pain becomes chronic, moderate- to high-intensity exercises and progressive exercises that focus on fitness and endurance are helpful in pain management.
Education is a huge part of the treatment for low back pain because we all have different worries, expectations, and goals. It’s important to clarify all these things so patients and physiotherapist are in the same page working towards the patient recovery.
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