April 22, 2016
Low back pain (LBP) is one of the most common complaints heard in physician offices each year. Statistics show that upwards of 80% of the population will experience LBP at some point in their life. This can range from mild discomfort, to debilitating pain that prevents normal activity. By the time most patients reach the office of a physical therapist, they have had multiple episodes of low back pain that are not responding to rest, ice and prescription or over the counter drugs. So what is the reason for such a high incidence of LBP in the population? Like most dysfunctions within the body, there is not one answer.
LBP can affect people of all walks of life, and is not limited to a specific age, gender, or body type. It used to be thought that those who had physically demanding daily routines were more susceptible to LBP. However, in a survey administered by the American Physical Therapy Association, they found that 54% of Americans who experience low back pain spend most of their day sitting. In both sedentary and physically demanding activities, we are finding there are biomechanical errors in our patient’s system, including flawed postures and movement patterns. Over time, these flaws can lead to irritation and damage to structures of the lumbar spine (low back).
A skilled physical therapist should be able to identify the impairments that are contributing to your symptoms, and develop a plan of care to address each one. They should perform a comprehensive evaluation, including a detailed history, to identify your mechanical stressors such as poor posture, improper movement patterns, load sensitivities, or positional biases. These stressors are often coupled with muscular imbalances, loose or tight joints, and decreased motor control. LBP can come from a variety of places including the facet joints, intervertebral disc, tendons, ligaments, muscles, bones and nerves. It’s important that physical therapists perform the appropriate test and measures to identify which structure(s) may be causing your symptoms.
Our therapist at Portland Physical Therapy has extensive training with LBP, including a two-year fellowship with a focus on spinal disorders. He spends considerable time with each patient identifying their mechanical stressors and how they impact daily activities – the result is a patient that is well-informed on their specific condition and an individualized comprehensive plan of care that includes realistic goals to modify activities and reduce aggravation.