Low back pain (LBP) is one of the most common health problems leading to frequent medical consultations. LBP is a major cause of disability affecting daily activities, performance (work or sports) and our general well-being.
Absenteeism from work due to LBP imposes a high economic burden on families, companies and governments. Non-specific (common) LBP is experienced by 60 per cent to 70 per cent people in industrialised countries at some point in their life (2013, WHO).
Cause of low back pain: About 10 per cent of patients with LBP have specific pathologies causing their pain such as disc problems, radicular syndrome, arthritis, fractures, scoliosis, metastases etcetera. Internal structures like the kidneys and bladder can be sources of LBP.
However, about 90 per cent of patients have non-specific LBP (no specific pathology is identified). Possible risk factors for this is staying in one position/posture for several hours, stress, depression, the strain on back tissues, standing for long periods of time/walking (more than what a person is used to), functional weakness, poor health, poor relationships at work, lack of sleep and others.
Symptom, not a disease or condition Back pain is not a disease, it is a symptom of other problems. Each person needs an evaluation, which involves carefully listening to your problems, reviewing your medical history, a physical examination and looking at psychological and social factors surrounding your life, all of which could contribute to LBP. This is very important because the back is not always the cause of LBP.
Making Treatment Easier “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me,” or so they say. Research now shows that things we are told and believe can actually cause us to experience pain. Studies have shown that educating the public about LBP is very effective in decreasing LBP and its economic burden. This education involves dispelling many myths and old beliefs about back pain.
The benefit of pain education Professor of Clinical Neurosciences, Lorimer Moseley in 2002 published a research which showed that physiotherapy with correct low back pain (LBP) education, significantly decreases pain and disability.
In 2004, he published another study, showing that pain education improved patients’ outcomes by changing their perception of pain and what is happening when they feel it.
The Truths About The Back:
These truths stand firm especially for persons with non-traumatic back pain:
1. I can trust my back.
2. Pain does not usually equal to damage.
3. It is safe to bend.
4. Back pain needs movement and a gradual increase in physical activities and not bed rest.
5. If it hurts, relax, breathe and move normally.
6. Activities you enjoy are safe and best for you.
7. Back pain is not all about scans. Lifestyle factors are important too.
8. Movement and loading make the back happy and strong.
Low back pain (LBP) affects many people and their lives, and it has been proven that their beliefs about LBP can affect their recovery. Patients with LBP who are very fearful, rest a lot, poorly copes or controls their pain, or who believes their backs have serious structural issues are at the greatest risk of developing chronic (long-lasting) LBP.
There is hope because these beliefs can be changed. Research also shows that exercise is safe and effective in managing LBP and also comes with many health benefits.
If you have specific concerns and questions about how low back pain should be treated, please contact a registered physiotherapist/physical therapist who should be able to provide answers.