So what does lower back pain mean? Low back pain is one of the most common complaints that GPs are presented with today. It is estimated that up to 85% of the population will suffer from low back pain at some stage in their lives. This can vary from acute lower back pain is defined as pain that has a rapid onset and lasts for less than three months to chronic lower back pain is defined as persistent back pain that lasts for more than three months.
Although the vast majority can make a full recovery over a three-month period, nearly 50% will have at least one recurring episode. It is important to note that – unlike many other medical conditions – different people experience low back pain in different ways. For example, two people can have the exact same condition but for one it is incapacitating and for the other it is a mere nuisance. In fact, for most people an abnormality (such as a degenerated disc that can be seen on an MRI scan) is painless. In addition, other factors – psychological, emotional, and financial – often contribute to and influence a person's experience of low back pain.
There are various structures in the back that can cause pain. These include: bones, discs, facet joints, nerves soft tissues, such as muscles, ligaments, tendons and fascia (which covers and supports the muscles. The pain does not always reflect the extent of the damage– meaning the severity of pain from low back problems is often unrelated to the extent of physical damage present, particularly with the more chronic back pain.
Osteopaths place great importance on palpation (the sense of touch), feeling for changes in the structures being affected. On this basis this profession can help back pain by the use of gentle hands-on techniques to stretch muscles, rebalance the body mechanics, improve back mobility and reduce spasms. Often exercises may be given to do at home to strengthen your back and tummy to help reduce pain, and stretches to increase your flexibility. For some there may need to be exercises to help them adjust the posture while others are given lifestyle advice to help prevent the problem from re-occurring, whether it take the form of general well-being advice, advice around work or leisure activities etc.
If you'd like to know more please feel free to email, or speak to any our experienced team of Osteopaths at the Centre, or read more on our pages back pain facts and osteopathy.