Four out of five Canadians experience back pain at some point in their lives, often during routine daily activities like gardening, cleaning up around the house, shoveling snow, or helping a friend lift their brand new sofa into the living room. For relief, our minds often jump to chiropractic or massage therapies, but did you know a physiotherapist can have a primary role in the management of and recovery from back pain?
Physiotherapy is effective in reducing acute and chronic pain through interventions focused on pain relief, prevention of recurrence, and return to function. This is achieved through a detailed assessment and diagnosis, followed by an individualized treatment program that includes exercise prescription, education, self-management strategies, manual therapy, and modalities. When you see a physiotherapist for your back pain, you are given the tools and knowledge to make a positive, lifelong lifestyle change.
Approximately 70% of all back pain cases occur during routine daily activities.
Postural stress: The majority of us spend our days sitting or standing for prolonged periods of time while we work or during leisure time at home, often without thinking about our posture. Poor posture can cause the soft tissue in your back to overstretch and your muscles and joints and nerves are put under pressure.
Muscle strains: Not surprisingly, our backs are prone to wear and tear during our daily activities. While minor back muscle strains can improve on their own, more severe strains will need physiotherapy treatment.
Disc injuries: One of the most common injuries we see at Midtown Physiotherapy is Degenerative Disc Disease (DDD). The discs are designed to absorb shock but they can wear down with age. From mechanical stress, discs can also bulge, herniate, or even rupture.
A physiotherapy program for any back injury or acute or chronic episode of pain may include manual therapy techniques such as mobilisations or manipulation, exercises to mobilise or strengthen, and postural retraining. In addition to these hands-on benefits, you will receive education to prevent recurrence and modalities such as TENS, ultrasound, heat or ice may be used to reduce pain.
At your sessions, your physiotherapist will also provide you with suitable and safe exercises you can do at home or at work, and practical tips for the activities you do in any given day. These tips may include exercises to stay flexible and mobile at work, or keeping your core strong to regain optimal control of deep spinal muscles. Read below for some specific tips:
When lifting, your feet should be shoulder-width apart and you should bend at your hips and knees, not your back. Grip the object close to your body and activate your core. Always avoid twisting.
Check your posture often throughout the day to make sure you are sitting or standing tall with chest lifted and shoulders relaxed.
When driving, ensure your back is supported and your legs are relaxed and slightly bent. Use a lumbar roll (available at most pharmacies) or a rolled-up towel if needed.
When sleeping, ensure your mattress is firm enough to support your spine in a neutral position. If your mattress is too soft or sags, consider adding a layer of foam for support.
This post is adapted from the Canadian Physiotherapy Association (CPA) which presents educational references as a public service and for informational purposes only. The content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. The opinions expressed do not necessarily represent the opinions of the CPA membership.
Adapted from the Canadian Physiotherapy Association: Source 1, Source 2, and Source 3 for education purposes.