Low back pain can be debilitating, and it can be a struggle just to get out of bed. If you want to ease your low back pain for good, you must first identify what’s causing it. Here’s what you should know about low back pain and how a physiotherapist can help.
About Low Back Pain
Low back pain refers to pain around the lower portion of your spine, from roughly the bottom of your rib cage to your pelvis. It can present like a dull ache or a sharp, burning sensation, depending on what’s causing it.
Most lower back pain isn’t serious, but it can be extremely uncomfortable. Usually, the pain goes away within a few weeks if you rest and rehabilitate your muscles properly.
Common Causes of Lower Back Pain
Low back pain has many causes, which is why it’s important you see a qualified physiotherapist for a diagnosis. It’s usually caused by:
- Sprains: You can strain the muscles and ligaments in your lower back if you exercise too vigorously or lift heavy objects.
- Disc damage: Our spines contain soft, disc-shaped “cushions” that act as shock absorbers when we move. These discs are prone to injury, and damage is more common as we age.
- Sciatica: If there’s a disc injury, sometimes a little bit of the soft material bulges out from the spine and presses against your sciatic nerve. This causes burning pain that can radiate down one leg.
Some other causes of low back pain include:
- Arthritis: This condition causes joint inflammation and can affect the spine.
- Spinal stenosis: A narrowing of the spinal column, causing nerve pain.
- Abnormal spine curvatures: These are usually diagnosed in childhood.
Low Back Pain: Red-Flag Symptoms
While most lower back pain can be treated with rest and physiotherapy, see a doctor immediately if you experience any of the following symptoms:
- Unintentional weight loss
- Fever and weakness
- Loss of bowel control
These symptoms may indicate a more serious underlying condition that requires medical treatment.
5 of the Best Exercises for Lower Back Pain
Before you tackle any of these exercises, here are a few points to bear in mind.
- Don’t rush through the moves. Take your body through a slow, full range of motion to get the most benefit.
- If any exercise makes your pain worse, stop right away and ask a physiotherapist for alternatives.
Once you’re ready, give these 5 physio-approved moves a go.
1. Child’s Pose
Stretch out your lower back muscles and boost your mobility at the same time with this gentle yoga pose.
- Drop onto all fours, then push your hips towards your heels until you feel a stretch. Let your arms hang forward.
- Hold the pose for 30 seconds, and repeat a few times.
2. Glute Bridge
The bridge exercise can strengthen your glutes and mobilise your spine, which, in turn, helps to protect your back.
- Lie on your back, feet hip-width apart. Tuck in your tailbone and lift your hips off the floor, keeping your back neutral.
- Repeat 8-10 times.
The bird-dog yoga pose helps you gently lengthen your spine, relax your muscles, and strengthen your core.
- Get down on your knees with hands on the ground, in a tabletop position. Raise the opposite arm and leg together and hold for a few seconds. Don’t arch your back — keep it neutral.
- Repeat 10 times per side.
4. Knee-to-Chest Stretch
Mobilise and stretch your muscles with this pose.
- Lie on the floor, knees bent and feet flat on the ground. Pull your knees into your chest.
- Hold for 30 seconds and repeat 5 times.
5. Cat/Cow Stretch
This stretch helps improve posture and loosen tight muscles in the low back.
- Kneel on all fours in a tabletop position. Let your belly sink as you gently arch your back, then round your spine.
- Repeat 10 or so times.
What Will a Physiotherapist do for Lower Back Pain?
The best way to treat lower back pain is to identify the root cause — that’s where a physiotherapist comes in.
A physiotherapist can help restore movement and improve the function of your lower back muscles. They’ll empower and encourage you to participate in the healing process.
The physiotherapist will perform a physical examination and, possibly, a neurological examination to check spinal nerve function. Once they’ve identified what’s causing your pain, they’ll set out exercises to help you recover as quickly as possible.
They’ll also offer you advice on how to prevent the injury from happening again.
Low back pain can be really uncomfortable, but gentle exercise can help ease your symptoms and support the recovery process. Avoid any sudden twisting movements, avoid slouching, and don’t lift heavy weights until your symptoms are gone.
If your low back pain persists for more than a week, call a physiotherapist.