Back problems may be the result of an injury, a degenerative disease, poor posture, or repetitive strain. In many cases, back problems manifest themselves in the form of pain, stiffness and impaired movement, which can lead to decreased activity. In some cases, these problems are serious enough to warrant a person taking time off from work and seeking medical help. Back problems can be treated by physiotherapy with very positive outcomes.
Some common back problems are:
- Herniated discs – This occurs when the discs in between the vertebrae of the spine become ruptured. This is a very painful condition, especially if the herniation is large enough to impinge on spinal nerves.
- Injuries, as in the case of sprains and fractures. These may be brief or chronic and may occur from improper lifting or twisting. Falls, accidents and direct blows to the back can also lead to injury.
- Scoliosis or curvature of the spine – This means the spine is out of alignment and may result in pain and decreased function.
- Osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis.
- Spinal stenosis – a narrowing of the spine that may put pressure on the spinal cord and nerves.
- Osteoporosis – This can lead to crushing fractures of the vertebrae as they lose their bone density.
- Fibromyalgia – This condition may cause widespread pain and fatigue.
- Infections, as in the case of osteomyelitis, a condition whereby the bone marrow of the vertebrae become inflamed and cause pain.
- Stress – This causes back muscles to become tense and painful.
The lower back is a region that is easily susceptible to back pain. Housewives, athletes, gardeners and workers who do heavy lifting or repetitive twisting and bending in their jobs may sustain back injuries during the course of their duties.
Preventing back problems
Back problems that result from car accidents, falls or other types of injuries may be unavoidable. However, some back problems can be prevented by maintaining a healthy weight through proper diet and exercise, by maintaining correct posture, using safe lifting techniques and through correction of muscle imbalance.
Exercise, especially weight-bearing exercises like walking and weight training are shown to improve bone density thus helping prevent and delay the progression of osteoporosis.
Employing appropriate biomechanics when lifting can prevent back injury. The rule is to use the quadriceps muscles at the front of the legs to assist in lifting by bending at the knees and holding the object close to the body so as not to strain the lower back. Also, use common sense. Do not attempt to lift something that is too heavy for you. Get help if necessary.
Correct posture when sitting and standing is important. Do not slouch, as this puts pressure on the lower back and neck. Sit with feet flat on the floor and knees slightly lower than your hips. Ensure that your head is not forward of your shoulders and support the lower back with a lumbar support pillow or a specialised chair. Having a physiotherapist assess your work station to make it more ergonomic can be very beneficial in preventing back pain. The way you sleep can also contribute to back pain. If you sleep on your side, a pillow between the knees can help to maintain the natural curve of the spine. If you sleep on your back, a pillow below the knees may be helpful. Also, do not discount the benefits of a therapeutic or physiotherapy association endorsed mattress or contour pillow.
We will educate you in ways of preventing your back problems from recurring and teach you to manage these problems through correct posture, exercise and lifting techniques so you can effectively alleviate pain.
Physiotherapy treatment of back problems may include massage, trigger point therapy, joint mobilisation and manipulation, acupuncture, correcting muscle imbalance through stretching and strengthening muscles, applying corrective sports tape to improve posture, education and exercise prescription including hydrotherapy.
By following our guidance, you could be on your way to living a pain-free life sooner than you imagine.