Did you know that 80% of people have experienced back pain at some stage in their life? Well it’s true, but that doesn’t mean that you have to live with back pain. Back pain can be caused by a number of structures, and can be resolved or prevented with physical therapy. Discs, nerves, muscles, ligaments, and joints can all be culprits of your back pain.
The most noted cause of back pain is the herniated disc. This may be because of the extreme pain it may provoke as the disc irritates the nerve that can affect the leg all the way down to the foot. The disc itself is a fluid filled fibrous ring that attenuates compressive forces of the spine. The disc can be disrupted or herniated due to repetitive movement such as bending over, or by one traumatic incident such as a fall. Either way, if you experience this kind of pain, you may benefit from physical therapy and should see your doctor as soon as possible. Because the longer you let your back pain continue, the longer the healing process will take. Now we’ve talked a little about herniated discs, it is important for you to know that 60-70% of people walking around with no sign of back pain have herniated discs. So even though you may have a herniated disc, it may not be the cause of your back pain.
Back pain can also be caused by a combination of muscle imbalance, including weakness and tightness, ligamentous tension or lack there of, and joint dysfunction. This kind of back pain most often eludes MRI’s and X-Rays. It is not easily seen through imaging, but can be distinguished by your physical therapist with strength and flexibility testing, palpation of bony landmarks, and with special tests to determine type of joint dysfunction. Reduction of the joint dysfunction by your physical therapist will decrease muscle and ligamentous tightness. After that, strengthening your core musculature is a huge part of recovery from back pain. This is where prevention of having another episode of back pain begins.
As we age, the chance of having another episode of back pain increases. The toll of gravity, poor body mechanics, and our previous back pain can be the culprit of spinal arthritis, or degenerative back pain. This kind of back pain may be called degenerative disc disease (DDD), spondylosis, or spondylolisthesis. This is where your disc height decreases leaving less space for the nerves, and your spine starts to slowly slip one vertebra on the other causing further narrowing of space for the nerve. This type of back pain is relieved by introducing flexion to the spine and incorporating core strengthening exercises into your daily routine to stabilize the spine.
If you are experiencing back pain, see your doctor as soon as possible and schedule a physical therapy examination. It may be the best thing you will do for yourself this spring!