What is Back Pain?

Back pain is categorised as a ‘musculoskeletal disorder’ which covers neck pain, lower back pain and repetitive strain injury now more commonly known as work relevant upper limb disorder.

Due to the large amount of varying structures that all have distinct roles and responsibilities in the back it is likely that during some stage in your life you will suffer with back pain. Back pain is a common injury however, in most cases the cause is not serious. Typically, the most frequently seen back related conditions are either disc, joint or muscle related conditions.

We can help with back pain, using techniques that involve strengthening muscle relationships surrounding the back, core, hips and lower limbs to ensure you have the correct balance to stop back related injuries. In a recent study 80% of patients treated with physiotherapy for lower or upper back pain saw effective relief from pain and where able to carry on working and not go off sick.

A lot of problems associated with back pain can be solved by seeing your physiotherapist quickly, limiting the impact this has on your day to day life. To know how Flex can help you with your back pain please get in touch.

What causes Back Pain?

Upper back pain

The cause of upper back pain can vary and is often a result of Injury or trauma but can equally be caused through strain or bad posture over a longer period. A substantial proportion of upper back pain cases are caused by one or both of the following:

  •         Muscular Irritation (myofascial pain)
  •         Joint Dysfunction

Muscular Irritation:

Large upper back muscles attach the shoulder girdle to the scapula and the back of the thoracic rib cage. Irritation and back pain is often a result of a lack of strength (de-conditioning), repetitive motions, muscle strains and injuries.

Joint Dysfunction:

Two joints connect the vertebrae in the thoracic spine to the ribs. Any dysfunction in these joints can result in upper back pain.

There are more uncommon causes of upper back pain which include disc herniation’s, spinal stenosis and degenerative disc diseases. However, these are unlikely and only 1% of all disc herniation’s occur in the thoracic spine.

Lower back Pain

Lower back pain is categorised in to 3 areas:

  •         Non-Specific Lower Back Pain
  •         Radicular Syndromes
  •         Specific Spinal Pathologies

Non-specific lower back pain accounts for the majority of cases with specific spinal pathologies and radicular syndromes only accounting for less than 11%.

Non-Specific Lower Back Pain:

Accounting for 90-95% of all lower back pain cases, non-specific lower back pain is diagnosed when no specific structure has been injured and all spinal pathologies have been excluded. The usual causes are from sudden injuries such as bending awkwardly to pick something up or overstress injuries that have occurred over a period of time due to poor posture.

These often result in muscle strains, ligament strains and can be treated with physiotherapy for effective lower back pain relief. The key is early diagnosis and a tailored treatment plan from your physiotherapist.

Radicular Syndromes (sciatica):

Making up between 5-10% of back pain cases radicular syndromes is lower back pack that is caused by the irritation or pinching of a nerve. This is most commonly the sciatic nerve. This can result in additional pain down the leg and result in being diagnosed with sciatica.

The sciatic nerve is the longest nerve in the body and runs all the way to your feet. Most people find the pain goes away naturally within a few weeks but this can last for much longer. This is the most common nerve associated with radicular syndromes but any other spinal nerve can be affected.

Lower back pain in this way can be caused by common back injuries that increase swelling in material adjacent to the spinal nerve either irritating or compressing the nerve.

Specific Spinal Pathologies:

Making up less than 1% of the lower back pain cases spinal pathologies do require urgent and specific referral and treatment. These can include spinal infections, malignancy, spinal arthropathies, cauda equine syndrome or spinal fractures.

Some referrals should be immediate so please seek advice from a medical professional.


How can Physiotherapy Help Me?

Physiotherapy is one of the best treatments for managing back and resulting in effective pain relief. Getting early diagnosis can help speed up recovery and prevent more pain in the future.

In the initial consultation, we will try to identify the root cause of the pain to understand if there are any underlying medical issues that are affecting this.  

With the identification of the back pain a treatment programme will be prescribed with ongoing management to help your recovery, taking away the pain and preventing it re-occurring.

Treatment will often result in a set of exercises often referred to as active physical therapy, manual treatments and sometime acupuncture. Active Physical therapy or exercise can consist of a combination of the following:

  •         Stretching
  •         Strengthening
  •         Low-impact aerobic conditioning

Can I Help Myself?

If you are suffering from back pain there is a lot you can do to help yourself. Carrying on with your activities as normal, or as much as possible is recommended and can often help significantly.

There are exercises that can help such as stretching, the nature of these will be recommended by a physiotherapist as the type of exercise can make a significant difference. It is important to carry on with exercises prescribed after the pain has gone to help prevent the pain coming back.

Research has shown that if ignored and left untreated without the right lifestyle changes back pain can return. It is important to be aware of the daily activities that you may be doing to put you at risk.

  •         Lack of exercise
  •         Poor posture
  •         Bad mattresses
  •         Smoking
  •         Sitting for extended periods of the day
  •         Poor diet and being overweight

It is important to know that simple changes to your lifestyle can lower your risk of back pain.

  •         Walking and swimming
  •         Daily stretching
  •         Strengthening your core muscles
  •         Adjusting your office and car seat properly
  •         Using the right technique when lifting
  •         Improving your diet