Low Back Pain
Low back pain is the most common complaint we see at Mike Varney Physiotherapy. 7 out of 10 people will experience some form of low back pain in their lifetime. It is characterised by a pain or ache anywhere between the bottom of your ribs and the top of your legs. Some people also experience referred pain down into the buttocks and legs. Despite being so common and very treatable, we often have patients who have waited years to seek any help with their pain, and it hugely affects their whole life. Low back pain can be caused by many different things. Our therapists are trained to find that cause and then treat your back to improve the pain, and most importantly get you back to doing everything you would like to!
Your spine is made up of a huge number of different joints, which is why you get so much movement in all directions. Like any other joint in your body, the joints of the spine can be sprained. If you go over on your ankle and sprain the ligament, it might be swollen, stiff, and painful to move and place weight on it. The same thing can happen in your back. If you trip on a kerb and twist awkwardly, or you aren’t warmed up and take the first golf swing of the day a bit too energetically, you can sprain a joint. The most common one is a facet joint, and just like your ankle it is a very similar process. It will be painful and feel stiff. If it hasn’t started settling down in a few days, then therapy can improve the healing process and prevent pain and stiffness sticking around.
Nerve Root Irritation
Your nervous system is like an upside-down tree, with the roots as the brain, the spinal cord as the trunk, and your nerves as the branches. The spinal cord is protected by the bones in your spine, called vertebrae, the branches find small openings where 2 vertebrae join together to travel out of the spine. Each nerve ‘branch’ travels a path to a particular are of your body. In your lower back these nerves go to your pelvis and legs, which is why pain down your leg can originate from a low back issue. The one most people have heard of is sciatica, which is simply irritation of the sciatic nerve. To get nerve root irritation, something needs to be irritating it. The most common cause of nerve root irritation is when it’s being pinched by another structure, such as a disc. Nerve root irritation often needs a proper assessment to figure out where the irritation is being caused, especially if the pain has been going on a little while. A course of treatment can target the underlying cause of this irritation and get you out of pain.
One of the most hated phrases therapists hear is, “I’ve slipped a disc”. This creates a really unhelpful and inaccurate image of a disc slipped out of place. The accurate term for it is herniated disc. So, if the disc hasn’t fallen out of place what’s happened to it? Well the easiest way to explain it is by comparing your spinal discs to jam donuts. You have the dough on the outside with the jam in the middle. When you herniate a disc, some of the jam pushes its way to the outside. It is entirely possible for the body to heal up with time, but sometimes it does just stay there. Many people have multiple disc herniation’s and would never know about it. It becomes an issue when the herniation (‘the jam’) is irritating another structure, such as a nerve. Discs do take a long time to heal, and seeing a therapist can speed up the recovery.
Just like you can get a cramp in your calf, or a strain in your hamstring, you can get a strain or spasm in your lower back muscles. Now you could experience a muscle strain/spasm without any problem with the spine itself, or you may get muscle spasms alongside a disc or joint problem. The most common causes of this is weakness in the muscles, doing a lot of one movement e.g. bending down doing a lot of gardening, or trauma e.g. tripping and twisting awkwardly. This type of low back pain can be very painful, however resolves well with treatment.
This is a very fancy term for general wear and tear that occurs in the joints and bones of the spine as people get older. It may cause loss of normal spinal shape and function. Although ageing is the primary cause, the location and rate of change is different from person to person. So, it is important to have a thorough assessment to find the best management approach for you. Unfortunately, the key word is management not fix, however there are many things that can help. Keeping flexibility and strength in your spine by doing low impact exercise will prevent stiffness and therefore pain. Another huge relief is physiotherapy, as it can mobilise joints and soft tissue to reduce the stiffness and improve posture. As it isn’t a condition that will resolve, our therapists will work to create a self-management programme, where hands on treatment is utilised as maintenance and to prevent flare ups, not as a sole means of management.
If you are suffering with any of the above, give us a call on 01279 414 959 to book in today!