Back pain can be one of the most disabling injuries someone can experience, yet it is also one of the most common injuries that people deal with every day. The recovery from an episode of low back pain can vary in duration, but there are many options to help you overcome your back pain
The low back is a complicated area. First there is the spine, with the spinal cord running through it. Then, between each spinal level, nerves come out on each side and run down the legs, responsible for all movement and sensation in the lower body. And finally, there are lots of small and big muscles that connect the upper body to the lower body and have to be strong and coordinated at all times to keep you upright and moving without pain. A disturbance in any of these structures can lead to pain and inflammation, which can cause pain to spread across your back and sometimes down your leg. Because there are so many nerves that run out of the lower back, pain in the toes can sometimes be due to an injury all the way up in your back. Some common injuries that can occur in your back are; muscle strain, joint stiffness, joint hyper-mobility, disc herniation/protrusion, sciatica, sacroiliac joint pain.
The mechanism of injury can sometimes be traumatic (being in a car accident), non-traumatic (picking up a piece of paper), repetitive (chopping wood, repetitive bending activities) or unknown (insidious onset can sometimes mean a more serious condition such as cancer, inflammatory arthritis, infection etc). Whatever the onset, it is important to seek medical consultation for back pain to rule out any serious condition.
If you have had a back injury then you will know that some days are better than others, and some positions are better than others. This is because the stresses that are placed on the injured structures in your back are what cause the pain, so finding positions that don’t put stress on your back helps to control pain. When recovering from a low back injury, your physiotherapist will focus on helping you find positions and do movements that decrease stress and pain on your back.
Another very important component of rehabilitation from a low back injury is building up your deep core strength. The deep core muscles help support your back. If you have injured your back, often these muscles are weaker or are not coordinating their activity properly to support your movement. Doing deep core strengthening can help improve the strength and stability of your low back, decreasing the pressures that cause you pain.
The last part of the recovery from a low back injury is returning to full functional ability and preventing future injury. It is very important to learn proper lifting mechanics and to gradually increase your activity level and lifting ability until you are back to full functioning. Progressing too fast could lead to re-injury. Once you are back to full functioning, an independent home exercise program will be important to maintain your strength and avoid re-injury down the road.
**If you are experiencing a severe case of back pain and in changes to bowel and bladder function, or numbness in that area (saddle paresthesia), go to the hospital right away**