Back pain

Back Pain


Back pain is very common with about 80% of people reporting LBP (Low Back Pain) during their lifetime. The good news is that the majority of LBP resolves within eight weeks. Between 10% and 20% of back problems, however, do not resolve on their own.

How can physiotherapy help?

For recent low back pain, evidence has recently emerged to suggest that there are a group of patients that respond very well to manipulation, in conjunction with a home exercise programme to promote flexibility and strength. This combination has been shown to increase the speed of recovery from low back pain.

For long term low back pain it is important to understand more about the forces that individuals put through their spine during daily activities. This can be done at the initial assessment by observing how you move and feeling the way your spine moves to identify any areas of stiffness that can be mobilised or any areas that are very mobile and need to be supported.

Research in recent years has focused on showing that re-training the deep abdominal muscles (whose activity reduces when experiencing back pain), can be very effective if used in conjunction with other forms of treatment in reducing low back pain. This is retraining ‘core stability’ and exercises are taught using the Pilates principles. Physiotherapists generally feel that having strong core stability is the best way to maintain improvement gained.

Other treatment modalities a physiotherapist may use to treat back pain are;

  • Manipulation/ mobilisation of joints and/or soft tissues
  • Acupuncture
  • Electrotherapy
  • Massage
  • Taping
  • Exercises
  • Advice on posture/ Back care/ Ergonomics
  • Heat/ cold therapy

The most important things to remember when suffering from a recent episode of low back pain are;

  • Avoid bed rest for more than 1-2 days. Bed rest for more than 2 days slows down recovery.
  • Try and stay ‘sensibly’ active.
  • Avoid remaining in one position for too long.
  • Taking NSAID’s will increase the likelihood of improvement in the first week (check with your GP or Pharmacist that they are not contra-indicated with any other medication you may be taking)

You should consult your GP immediately (today!) if you experience any of the following symptoms;

  • Numbness or altered sensation in the area between your legs (the saddle area).
  • Altered function in your bladder and bowel, for example a loss of control, or following urination a sense of incomplete evacuation or needing to go and being unable to.
  • Loss of sexual function (loss of erectile function in men and loss of sensation in women).