This is the first of a two part series on low back pain. In part two we will look at the treatment and management of low back pain.
Low back pain is the the most common condition that we see in our clinic. Many patients are extremely concerned that their low back pain is going to end up as a permanent pain or lead to surgery. It can be extremely debilitating and affects our normal everyday activities significantly. Tales of woe abound on the internet and make it difficult to be positive about having a good outcome.
However, in most cases, there is something that can be done - and it's pretty simple.
Low back pain is an extremely common symptom experienced by people of all ages. It is also now the number one cause of disability globally!!
Most episodes of low back pain are short lasting with little or no consequences, but recurrent episodes are common.
Lifestyle factors that relate to poorer general health such as smoking, obesity and low levels of physical activity are associated with occurrence of low back pain episodes.
40% of 9-18 year olds will have an episode of low back pain.
Most low back pain is termed "non specific" - that is, no specific structure can be identified as causing the pain. Intervertebral discs and facet joints are potential areas that can cause pain.
Radicular pain occurs when there is nerve root involvement, commonly called a pinched nerve or sciatica. Pain in the leg in a certain area, leg pain worse than the back pain and worsening of leg pain with certain activities confirms radicular pain. It can also be associated with pins and needles or numbness in certain parts of the leg. Disc herniation plus local inflammation is the most common cause of radiculopathy.
Disc herniations are, however, a frequent finding on imaging in people without low back pain and they often resolve or disappear over time.
WILL MY BACK PAIN GO AWAY?
More than likely - YES!
There is strong evidence that most episodes of low back pain improve substantially within 6 weeks.
Around 50% of people with low back pain have continuing or fluctuating pain of low to moderate intensity
Around 33% of people will have a recurrence within 1 year of recovering from a previous episode.
WHAT ARE THE RISK FACTORS FOR LOW BACK PAIN?
Previous episode of low back pain
Other chronic conditions such as asthma, headache and diabetes
Poor mental health
Smoking, obesity and low levels of physical activity
Awkward postures, heavy manual tasks, feeling tired and being distracted during an activity
Often there are multiple factors involved in your low back pain