In the 2014–2015 National Health Survey the Australian Bureau of Statistics found that 3.7 million Australians (16% of the population) have back problems. It is estimated that 70–90% of people will suffer from lower back pain in some form at some point in their lives.
Thus, lower back pain is one of the most frequent complaints that brings patients to see Osteopaths at ATUNE Health Centres. Most cases of lower back pain are mechanical in nature and are not directly related to any specific structural damage or disease process. Patients are usually reassured to hear that there is a logical explanation for their pain.
Often the cause of a patient’s back pain is clear – the onset of pain may have occurred after moving a heavy item of furniture, doing burpees or squats at the gym or spending an hour vacuuming the house. The exact source of the pain is not always clear, however using our clinical knowledge and a thorough history and examination we endeavour to identify the problem area and treat it appropriately.
With recurrent episodes of lower back pain, there is often an underlying cause such as muscular imbalance or weakness. In addition to this, many patients work in occupations that may involve repetitive strain on the lower back or sustained postures which can lead to stiffness and pain. Many patients who begin an exercise program for the first time may injure their lower back due to a lack of flexibility, poor strength or muscle control and sometimes incorrect technique.
What is important when managing Lower Back pain?
A detailed history is vital in helping determine the right cause of your pain. Questions such as
- aggravating and relieving factors (provide clues as to the specific source of the pain)
- location of the pain
- associated symptoms such as numbness, tingling or burning pain in the legs (this may indicate a nerve injury or pathological cause of your pain).
The Osteopath will then do a physical examination assessing joint and muscular range of motion and conduct any other necessary special tests to help provide more information. This may include strength testing, testing of reflexes or nerve provocation tests. We will also feel the muscles, joints and ligaments in the lower back and surrounding areas such as thoracic spine (middle back), hips and pelvis to identify areas of pain and dysfunction.
At this point in time, hands on treatment will commence provided that the Osteopath has determined that treatment will be safe and beneficial for you. Treatment may involve soft tissue massage, stretching, joint range of motion techniques and balanced ligamentous tension techniques.
Patients will be provided with some home management strategies to assist in recovery and pain management. This may involve advice on the application of ice or heat, posture, ergonomics, stretches or strengthening exercises where appropriate. The patient will also be advised of the expected recovery timeframe and when it is recommended that they return for additional treatment. As a general rule, patients with acute (recent onset) lower back pain will require less treatments over a shorter timeframe, whereas patients with more serious injuries such as disc bulges or chronic lower back pain will usually require more visits over a longer period of time to regain optimal function. Recovery is always dependent upon the nature of the injury, the person’s age and general health status and the presence of aggravating factors related to their lifestyle or work environment.
Written by Catherine Coventry
Learn more about ATUNE Osteopathy Here.
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