Is back pain affecting your daily life? Do you find it hard to walk around, bend over, or exercise? If that’s the case, you aren’t alone. Back pain is one of the world’s leading causes of disability, but thankfully, it can be treated and prevented.
According to the American Chiropractic Association, 50% of Pueblo’s working adults deal with back pain each year, and up to 80% of people will experience it at some point in their lives. Back pain does much to steal our productivity; it’s one of our most common reasons for sick days and doctor visits.
From strength training and stretching to physical therapy, there are many ways to prevent back pain. Physical therapy doesn’t just ease the pain—it also improves a patient’s mobility and posture. In the long term, it may help to reduce the need for anti-inflammatory medicines.
What Are the Causes of Back Pain?
Statistics show that back pain leads to disability in approximately 15% of Americans. The condition affects a person’s quality of life, including their health and ability to hold a job. Back pain has numerous causes, and treatments must be adjusted as needed.
The lower back supports the weight of the upper body, making daily activities possible. It allows a person to twist, bend, and rotate their hips when walking. Furthermore, the nerves in this area control the pelvis, legs, and feet. Even slight pain or a minor imbalance can affect mobility.
Back pain can range from dull and throbbing to sharp and intense. The condition may develop with time, or it may come on suddenly due to an injury. Insufficient exercise, poor posture, a sedentary lifestyle, and obesity are the most common risk factors for back pain. For example, when a person is obese, the additional weight puts stress on their joints and spine, limiting range of motion and causing pain. Some health conditions include nerve compression, which affects the spine and surrounding tissues. These conditions include:
- Disc herniation
- Fractured vertebrae
- Spinal stenosis
- Spinal arthritis
- Skeletal deformities
- Disc degeneration
- Strains and sprains
Sciatica, for instance, compresses the sciatic nerve. This brings muscle weakness, numbness, decreased range of motion, and severe pain. Lordosis, scoliosis, and other skeletal deformities develop over time, so the pain gets progressively worse. A herniated disc may trigger nerve compression, inflammation, and chronic pain.
In some cases, back pain is caused by conditions including:
- Abdominal aortic aneurysms
- Kidney stones
Back pain may come from an injury sustained when lifting weights or stressing the ligaments. Aging is another common cause; as a person gets older, their spine loses mobility and may become arthritic.
Physical therapy and other non-surgical treatments address the symptoms and causes of back pain, and many patients experience relief after only a few therapy sessions. Depending on your unique needs, a Pueblo physical therapist may suggest massage, preventive measures, or an exercise routine.
Back Pain Risk Factors
Some people are prone to developing back pain. Other than aging, the main risk factors include genetics, pregnancy, a sedentary lifestyle, and weight gain. Somewhat surprisingly, anxiety and depression contribute to (but don’t cause) back pain. Such conditions reduce a person’s tolerance to pain and increase muscle tension, which may worsen their symptoms.
If a job requires you to push, pull, or lift heavy objects, it’s likely that you’ll experience lower back pain. These activities increase the risk of injury and put stress on the spine, but desk jobs are no better. Prolonged sitting is one of the biggest risk factors for severe back pain.
In the long term, sitting leads to changes in the lumbar discs, which may in turn cause muscle imbalances, sore shoulders, neck pain, hip issues, herniated discs, and back pain. Sitting at a desk all day also puts a person at risk of osteoporosis, diabetes, and heart disease.
Certain sporting activities may lead to back pain. Poor weightlifting form is a leading cause of slipped discs and spinal injuries, which are quite common among gym goers and athletes. A person who only works out on the weekends after an inactive Pueblo workweek is more susceptible to back pain. Generally, these people attempt to compensate for their weekday sluggishness by pushing themselves much too hard.
The same applies to those starting weight training programs. Many lifters make the mistake of sacrificing quality for quantity, leading to poor form and subsequent pain. A skilled therapist can teach a patient how to work out safely, which moves to avoid, and how to strengthen their back muscles. A therapist can also recommend effective, safe treatments for sore muscles and other sports injuries.
How Physical Therapy Treats Back Pain
Physical therapy is one of the most effective ways to treat and prevent back pain. The practice involves joint mobilization, exercises, massage, stretches, acupuncture, and other methods that alleviate pain and discomfort. Here are a few of the biggest benefits of physical therapy for sciatica treatment.
- It increases the chances of full recovery – When a person receives physical therapy following a back pain episode, they may be able to reduce the risk of complications and minimize the need for further treatment. The sooner the condition is treated, the more likely the patient is to recover.
- A therapist can recommend effective exercises – A physical therapist may recommend strength and flexibility exercises for the back muscles. If you are in pain, they may perform manual therapy to increase joint mobility and ease pain.
- Therapists can alleviate pain with massage – In many cases, effective massage makes a significant difference in a patient’s pain levels. Massage is a common part of physiotherapy treatment, as it increases joint flexibility, reduces tension, and relaxes the muscles. Some therapists recommend deep tissue, trigger point, Swedish, or mobilization massage. Most times, the therapist will refer a patient to a massage practitioner who’s skilled in those areas.
These and other therapeutic techniques relieve pain, improve mobility, and strengthen the muscles. Some treatment modalities, such as massage, stimulate blood flow to affected areas, which accelerates healing. Additionally, these treatments reduce muscle soreness and tension, which makes them especially useful for athletes and workers suffering from back pain.
Physical therapy helps to treat back pain in several ways. Every patient’s condition is unique, and the techniques a therapist uses will depend on their symptoms and requirements. After a thorough assessment of your condition, your therapist will form a treatment strategy and suggest preventive measures.