How can physio help with my low back pain?
Low back pain is a common condition that affects a large portion of the population. While there are many causes to low back pain, the most common form is “non-specific low back pain” which is when a patient has been cleared of any serious causes of their low back pain and that their symptoms cannot be linked to a specific cause. It is estimated that over 90% of patients who attend physiotherapy for low back pain fall into the “non-specific low back pain” category.
While at times patients might ask “what exactly is causing my pain?”, current research and guidelines suggest that in many of these cases, it is not necessary to identify the specific cause of the pain as it may be a combination of various factors.
In these cases, physiotherapy clinic in Edmonton plays a large role in identifying the impairments that may be causing pain or that increase the likelihood of developing pain. These include:
- Biological factors such as muscle weakness or joint stiffness
- Psychological factors such as fear of movement
- Social factors such as work environment or activities performed throughout the day
Because of cause of low back pain is often a combination of multiple things, research currently does not support the need of identifying a specific cause of low back pain for effective management of symptoms. In these cases, by performing an assessment, physiotherapist can properly identify the areas that are contributing to the pain and create a rehabilitation program to address symptoms. As per recent guidelines, active based management of symptoms is recommended in decreasing current pain and preventing future episodes.
Does imaging help diagnose the cause of pain?
In physiotherapy, we often hear things like “If we could just get some imaging, we would know what is causing my pain”. When it comes to the use of imaging such as an MRI, it is important to understand that imaging does not show pain. The research shows that when it comes to low back pain, specific imaging findings such as disc injuries and arthritic changes were commonly identified over imaging in patients complaining of low back pain.
However, these findings are ALSO found in asymptomatic patients, meaning patients with no symptoms. This means that findings over imaging do not correlate to pain. Due to the subjective nature of pain, meaning that pain levels are interpreted differently depending on the person, images cannot truly show pain.
In fact, if not used appropriately, findings over imaging could potentially lead patients down the wrong path when trying to determine what exactly is contributing to their pain.
If we apply this concept to the management of non-specific low back pain, we can see why imaging is most often not required as it does not allow us to understand the specific cause of pain. However, in the event that the pain does not respond to conservative management or that a serious condition is suspected, the use of imaging might be considered.
If imaging doesn’t necessarily show pain, what is then the alternative?
When understanding the relationship between the different joints in the body, it is best to explain the body as if it was pulley system. Since no single joint or muscle works in isolation, it is important to consider the influences that one body part will have on a neighbouring area. In the instance of low back pain, it is then not only important to consider the low back region but to also carefully examine the areas above and below this region such as the hip complex and the mid-back. Careful assessment of these areas allows for a better idea of what exactly is contributing to someone’s low back pain and if dysfunctions are leading to low back pain.
How do Physiotherapists help?
Physiotherapists are trained in full body assessment and can help determine the exact movement patterns, muscle imbalances, joint dysfunctions, and specific injuries that are contributing to pain in a specific area. The more thorough the assessment, the more effective a treatment plan in managing current symptoms and preventing injury. At Advantage Sport Medicine Physiotherapy, we can help you determine what the best course of action is for your condition!
Dealing with low back pain? Come see us at our physiotherapy clinic in Edmonton to get the help you need!