Do you suffer from low back pain? Chances are five out of every 10 of you reading this column do (assuming more people than just my husband reads this).
The Canadian Chiropractor Association reports that up to 85 per cent of working people can expect to experience some sort of low back pain during their lifetime.
That’s a lot of people. And a lot of people in pain.
In today’s static world, filled with poor posture, inactive bodies and core muscles as tight as jelly, it’s really not that much of a surprise. Heck, even seemingly healthy people who workout on a regular basis can be plagued by low back pain every so often (yours truly included).
So, what can we do to treat low back pain, and even better, how can we avoid it in the first place? To help us make the right choices for our low back, I have recruited three popular professionals in the Delta area - a physiotherapist, a chiropractor and a registered massage therapist.
For today’s column, Travis Wolsey, physiotherapist and owner of Sungod Physiotherapy in Ladner, North Delta and Tsawwassen (www.sungodphysio.com), will help us understand low back pain and its treatment, as well as some tips on how to prevent it. (Stay tuned for my next column to hear from Dr. Emily Baas, chiropractor at Fiskco Health + Performance.)
Wolsey explains that the majority of acute low back pain is usually mechanical in nature, meaning there is a disruption in the way the components of the back (which include the spine, the muscles, intervertebral discs and nerves) fit together and move.
Some examples of mechanical problems are muscle strains - often from lifting, reaching, excessive sitting and using poor mechanics in movement.
Joint (articular) sprains is another issue. The joints that connect the vertebrae (called facet joints) can sprain just like any other joint in the body. This often happens with excessive bending, lifting and twisting, as well as overuse and poor posture.
Mechanical problems can also come from a joint in the back being hypermobile or hypomobile. Wosley says that while a hypermobile joint is OK, if the muscles that surround that joint can’t control things then dysfunction and pain can occur.
A common hypermobile joint in the low back are the sacroiliac joints (SI joint). Your SI joint is a critical linkage system between your lower spine and pelvis and requires a strong core, specifically the transversus and obliques, to control and stabilize the joints.
Hypomobility (stiffness) can also cause a problem with the low back, as it often creates hypermobility somewhere else to accommodate the stiffness.
The discs, which hold the vertebrae together, can also break down and become a source of discomfort when they start to press on a nerve.
So, how can a physiotherapist help with low back pain? Well, a physiotherapist can help identify what the problem is, which is important for proper treatment.
Once the problem has been identified, physiotherapy treatment can include exercise to stretch the tight muscle, strength exercises to control the movement of the spine (core), muscle release techniques including IMS, acupuncture, foam rolling and electrotherapeutic modalities like TENS to desensitize the muscle and help it relax.
Joint manipulation or mobilization may also be used, as well as spinal traction for decompression or manipulation.
Will a physiotherapist be able to relieve the pain right away? Wolsey says sometimes yes and sometimes no. In his experience, when problems have been in the making for years it often takes several visits to retrain and correct the underlying problem.
However, if someone simply tweaks their back they can get resolution quite quickly from manual therapy and IMS.
PJ Wren is a trainer and writer who can be found at www.thestudio.ca.