Studies have shown between 60-80% of the general population experience back pain at some point in their lives. Pain can be categorised into neck pain, upper back pain, lower back pain or tailbone pain. It can be a dull ache, a sharp pain, a piercing pain, or a burning sensation.
Non-specific acute back pain with no serious underlying pathology is diagnosed in approximately 98% of back pain patients.
Secondary back pain accounts for ~2% of cases and includes underlying pathologies such as abscesses, metastatic cancer or referred abdominal organ pain. Whilst these pathologies are not the most common underlying cause of back pain
If you are experiencing any of the following symptoms you should consult your doctor immediately:
- Bowel and/or bladder incontinence
- Progressive weakness in the legs
- Difficulty walking
- Severe back pain (such as pain bad enough to interrupt sleep) with other signs of severe illness(i.e. fever, unexplained weight loss, immunosuppressive symptoms)
- Back pain after trauma, such as a car accident or fall may indicate a bone fracture or other injury
- Patients with back pain who have a high riskfor a spinal fracture (i.e. long history of steroid use, osteoporosis, rheumatoid arthritis, or multiple myeloma)
- Patients with back pain with a history of cancer (especially cancers known to spread to the spine such as: breast, lung, and prostate cancer) to rule out metastatic disease of the spine
Physiotherapy and Back Pain
If you do not fall into the above categories it is most likely you are suffering from non-specific acute back pain, which physiotherapy can assist with. Back pain can arise from various structures in the spine
- Muscle tissue including muscles strains (pulled muscles), muscles spasm and muscle imbalances
- The joints of the spine (zygapophyseal/facet joints)
- Spinal disc
Physiotherapy can also help individuals managing other causes of back pain including, sciatica (nerve pain into the leg), spondylolisthesis, osteoarthritis (degenerative joint disease), post surgical back rehabilitation and spinal stenosis.
Treatment for managing back pain may include joint mobilisations, soft tissue mobilisation, massage therapy, heat, ice, electrotherapy, exercise therapy, core stability exercises, Pilates, hydrotherapy, stretches, manipulation if appropriate, and/or neural mobilisation techniques.