March 25, 2019

Do your patients present with Low Back Pain?

By Thomas Stites PT, DMT, FAAOMPT

At any given time, 25-30% of people in the United States report having low back pain in the past three months.

Back pain symptoms vary from person to person. Dull ache, burning sensation, or sharp pain are some of the most commonly reported symptoms.  The pain may be located at a specific point or across a broad area.  Sometimes, it radiates into one or both legs.

Low back pain is categorized as acute, recurrent, or chronic.  Acute pain lasts less than three months.  Recurrent describes acute symptoms that return.  Chronic pain lasts longer than three months.  Most of the time, low back pain will resolve within two weeks without medical intervention.  However, 60-80% of patients with low back pain will have a recurrence within one year.

Will Physical Therapy Help? Yes, and generally without surgery or medication.  A physical therapist will tailor a patient’s treatment to fit their symptoms, diagnosis, and lifestyle. Following evaluation, a physical therapist will identify the factors that have contributed to the patient’s specific back problem, and design an individualized treatment plan.  At first, a therapist may use ice, heat, or electrical stimulation to help relieve pain.  Treatment plan progression may include:

• Manual therapy, including spinal mobilization

• Strengthening, with specific focus on the core musculature

• Flexibility exercises (Tip: tight hamstrings are often a culprit in low back pain)

• Education about how you can take better care of your back

• Training for proper lifting, bending, and sitting

Can this back pain be prevented?  A physical therapist not only treats persistent or recurrent low back pain, but also plays an important role in preventing it.  A few preventative strategies include:

• Exercises to keep your back, stomach, and leg muscles strong and flexible

• Good body positioning at work, home, or during leisure activities

• Proper lifting techniques

• Maintain a regular physical fitness regimen—staying active can help to prevent injuries

Atlas, Steven J., and Richard A. Deyo. “Evaluating and managing acute low back pain in the primary care setting.” Journal of General Internal Medicine 16.2 (2001): 120-131.

Thomas Stites PT, DMT, FAAOMPT is with Pivot Physical Therapy.