How can Physiotherapy help Back Pain?

What is back pain and how can physiotherapy help back pain? Back pain can refer to any pain that is felt anywhere on the back of your torso. It may be the upper part near the shoulder blades (upper or midback pain) or lower down near the hips (lower back pain). It may be central, in close to the spine or off to the sides. You may also experience it on both sides of the spine or on just one side. Back pain can be a dull ache or a sharp pain and it may or may not be accompanied by stiffness or restricted movement.

Physio and Lower Back Pain

How do I know if my back pain can be helped by physiotherapy?

Musculoskeletal pain refers to pain caused by muscles, joints and nerves. Any back pain that is musculoskeletal in origin can be helped by physio. Sometimes back pain can be caused by something else, such as kidney problems, urinary tract infections, endometriosis, pancreatitis and some cancers. Signs that your back pain is musculoskeletal:

  • Pain is caused or worsened with certain movements (eg bending forward, lifting, twisting) or positions (like sitting or standing for prolonged periods of time)
  • Movement is restricted – you may find that movement in any direction (bending forwards or backwards, twisting, leaning back) is limited. You might also feel that some of the muscles in the area of your pain feel tight or ropey
  • Nerve related symptoms – back pain can occur with or without nerve pain. If you have lower back pain that also travel down your leg (either as pain or tingling) then you may have nerve related back pain. This can still be helped with physio
  • Weakness – It is common for muscles to be inhibited (ie not work properly) as part of the protective response with back pain so some people experience a general sense of feeling ‘unstable’ or not trusting their back when they experience musculoskeletal back pain. You may also feel like your legs are heavier than usual or doing activities (such as lifting things) is more effort.
Lower Back Assessment

What does physio for back pain involve?

The most recent research tells us that a multimodal approach is best for helping people manage back pain. This means that we use a combination of types of treatment to address the different factors for back pain. A holistic multimodal physio approach might include:

  • Advice and education – understanding what is causing your back pain, what activities you may want to avoid in the short term and knowing that most lower back pain resolves is an important part of physio management for back pain. The better you understand pain, why it occurs and what in your body is driving it the better your recovery will be
  • Manual therapy – hands on treatment to help improve range of movement and reduce the protective response by the body. Treatment may involve joint mobilisations, muscle releases, nerve treatment and dry needling
  • Taping – in the early phases of back pain, tape may be used to help support your back or remind you of positions to avoid so you don’t cause further irritation of the problem
  • Postural education – learning ideal postures and positions for your daily activities (sitting, sleeping, standing, exercise) is important for promoting recovery and minimising the risk of future problems
  • Exercises – these can be used for a variety of purposes. They may be for encouraging gentle pain free range of motion in your back or once you are moving better exercises might focus on building strength in the appropriate muscles as this is important for improving your body’s resilience to help you make a full recovery and return to your favourite activities safely
  • Holistic strain management – understanding that pain is not just caused by tight muscles, and in fact all kinds of “strain” can contribute to the brain producing pain. Looking at your sleep, hydration, stress, nutrition, medical conditions and other factors is an important piece of the puzzle. No two bodies are the same and your back pain is unique to you. To read more about what is strain follow the link here.
Exercise for Lower Back

Whether it is a first time occurrence or a persistent problem, back pain can be scary, frustrating and debilitating. Physiotherapy treatment can help back pain and management should always include a variety of treatment types and be individualised to you. If you are experiencing back pain and want to know if physiotherapy can help you, get in touch with the team here at Barefoot Physiotherapy. Or you can book in for an appointment online here.

If you found this blog helpful you might enjoy checking out our blog on Exercises for Lower Back Pain or Pilates for Back Pain.

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