Acute Lower Back Pain – From A Physio’s Point Of View!

Ever noticed when you go in for assessment and treatment of your acute low back pain your physio is also so calm and relaxed about the whole situation? It is not because we don’t care or we are undermining your injury. It is quite the opposite. It’s because we DO care and know that stress, fear and increased anxiety is not necessary.

It is estimated that 80% of Australians will experience acute low back pain at some point in their life. That’s MASSIVE. Based on these stats it is safe to say, if you haven’t experienced lower back pain you certainly know someone who has.

Now 80% is a massive statistic, however, another very important stat is that 90% of acute lower back pain cases reported are non-specific!What does that mean you ask? Non-specific refers to the notion that the cause of the back pain is not specific to any structural tissue damage and is instead a combination of acute inflammation, muscle spasm, joint stiffness and sometimes emotional and/or psychological stress. Only 10% of acute lower back pain is due to specific tissue damage. This refers to damaged soft tissue such as vertebral disc and bone tissue such as acute fractures or diseases of the bone such as cancer, spinal stenosis or spondylolisthesis (try saying that 3 times with a mouth full of sponge cake).

How do you know if your acute back pain is non-specific or specific? Well the simple answer to that is to call/email or come in and see a physio. However, this is not a sales pitch! If you do not want to seek expert advice, the best way of telling if your acute back pain is specific or non-specific is TIME. With acute lower back pain that is non-specific you should see an improvement in pain and function within 3 weeks. You may not see complete return to function without pain, but you will see an improvement from the initial onset. If after 3 weeks you are not getting any changes in pain or function or if you are getting worse then that is strong sign for further investigation.

Now I can hear you say 3 WEEKS…….. that’s a long time!!!!! I am not implying that you will experience the same level of pain and dysfunction that you do at the onset of pain for 3 weeks. In my experience, patients that I see have a significant decrease in pain levels and improved function over the initial 5-7 days. However, there will still be things that cause discomfort during the period whether it be sitting too long, repeated bending and/or lifting.

So, lets recap. Now you know that 80% of Australians will experience lower back pain at some point in their life and that 90% of acute low back pain is non-specific. You also know what causes your non-specific lower back pain and that this will mostly resolve within 3 weeks.

If you have any questions about this episode or would like me to write on a specific topic in the future please feel free drop me an email or call the clinic.

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