Low back pain is a common problem and around 80% of Australians will experience lower back pain, so you're not alone. Managing your low back pain may not be a simple matter. You need to be aware of a number of factors to help you decide what to do to treat the problem and how you can influence outcome.
Here are 7 things you need to know:
- It will get better, but not always on its own.
In most instances of lower back pain, the problem may settle within a few weeks. However, many people are still affected in some way by their pain months down the track. Also, acute pain episode are very common. So, whilst you may get better doing nothing about your back pain, to ensure the quickest and best outcome you should seek assistance from an expert.
- There may not be an overnight cure
Recovery can take time and can be related to various factors. These include the severity of the problem and also the state of your body prior to injury. For example, if you are a 55 year old manual worker, your spinal tissue may have some degeneration prior to injury. This may mean a slower recovery than in a 21 year old with less degenerative changes in the spine. Other contributing factors can include your general health, your weight, whether you are a smoker, your fitness and if you suffer from depression.
- Anti-inflammatory medication
In acute lower back pain there is generally a inflammatory process and therefore, speaking with your GP or pharmacist to determine the best pain and anti-inflammatory options is strongly beneficial . However, whilst it may play a role initially, it should not be the only intervention you use to you treat your low back pain. Other modalities such as tailored exercises should be incorporated into the management program. A study in the USA a few years ago suggested that for every $1 spent on anti-inflammatory medication, a further 75 cents had to be spent treating the adverse side effects.
- Motor Control vs 'Core stability'
'Core stability' is a buzz word in low back pain management, we prefer motor control. Improving your motor control and optimal muscle activity around your trunk will help you overcome persistent back problems and avoid recurrence. These exercises need to be specifically tailored to your needs by a physiotherapist or exercise physiologist with expert skills in this area.
- Ongoing exercises
One of the biggest risk factors in suffering a back injury is a previous back injury. As such, you need to continue general fitness, mobilising and 'core' exercises long after you recover from your back injury to help prevent recurrent problems.
- Posture and work
Your posture and the work you do can contribute to the development of low back problems. Prolonged sitting, working in a bent forward position and heavy or repeated lifting can all be factors in you developing low back pain. These need to be addressed to ensure a good outcome of recovery.
There is a stack of evidence out there proving very little value in early X-Rays in managing lower back pain. They have no value predicting who will get back problems, who has back problems or identifying what the problem is. Having too many X-rays throughout your life can be harmful to your health.