BY DR. JACOB REIDY, PT AND CARTER MEYERS, PTA
Low back pain is extremely common today. Generally, about 80% of people will experience low back pain during their lifetime. Low back pain can be caused by several things, including herniated discs, degenerative disc disease (DDD), arthritis and muscles strains. Low back pain can stem from trauma such as falls or car accidents but can also creep up over time without known cause.
The biggest mistake one can make when back pain starts is to ignore symptoms with the hope of it getting better on its own. Most of the time, symptoms get worse if the root cause is left untreated. A great way to be proactive is to deal with the pain head on before it gets worse and affects your quality of life. In most cases, bed rest is one of the worst things one can do when dealing with low back pain. Nonetheless, getting in to see a physical therapist is a good start to taking care of your symptoms and a chance at getting your life back.
In the state of Florida, we can take advantage of what is called Direct Access. Most do not know that you can see a physical therapist for up to 30 days without a physician referral. This leads to better outcomes when treatment can begin sooner rather than later. As PT’s, we are trained to determine if your case is appropriate for physical therapy or if other medical attention is indicated.
An exam with a physical therapist often begins with a series of fitness tests including pushups, pull ups, and timed running…. just kidding! As physical therapists,we carefully evaluate strength, flexibility, range of motion and neurologic function. We use our findings to formulate a treatment plan including specific joint mobilizations, soft tissue mobilization, stretching and strengthening. There are a variety of modalities that can be helpful in treating lower back pain. Laser therapy has been shown to reduce pain, decrease inflammation and speed the healing process.
Good news! You can work to address your low back pain while sitting and reading this article. Start by sitting up in your chair and finding your neutral spine position. You can achieve this by rocking your pelvis front to back and alternating between an arched and rounded lumbar spine. Once you have a feel for the end point of each motion, slowly begin to narrow the motion to the mid-range of the movement. Congratulations! You are in neutral spine position and less stresses are being placed on your low back. Now by drawing your stomach in you can hold this position for extended periods of time.
You can also start with a few basic exercises to improve the stability of your spine. Start by lying on your back with your knees bent. Next, you will want to draw your belly button down towards your spine and tilt your hips back, flattening your low back. Now, hold this position for a few seconds before resting. Perform 2-3 sets of 10 repetitions. If you are looking to take it to the next level, get into a quadruped position (hands and knees) and find your neutral spine position. Draw your stomach in towards your spine and extend your right arm and left leg. Then switch to use your opposite limbs and try to perform continuously for one minute. Good luck!