Oh, My Aching Back!

At any given time, about 25% of people in the United States report having low back pain within the last 3 months. In most cases, low back pain is mild and disappears on its own. However, for some people, back pain can return or linger, leading to a decrease in quality of life or even to disability.

The symptoms of low back pain can vary a great deal. The pain can be dull, burning, or sharp. You may feel it at a single point or over a broad area. It may be accompanied by muscle spasms, numbness or stiffness and spread into one or both legs. There are three different types of low back pain:

Acute – pain lasting less than 3 months

Recurrent – when acute symptoms come back

Chronic – pain lasting longer than 3 months

Often times, low back pain occurs due to overuse, strain or injury. It could be caused by too much bending, twisting, lifting or even too much sitting. Most people who have an episode of acute pain will have at least one recurrence.

Several conditions that may contribute to low back pain are degerative disk disease, lumbar spinal stenosis, fractures, herniated disk, osteoarthritis, osteoporosis and tumors of the spine.

Physical therapists play an important role not only in treating persistent or recurrent low back pain, but also in preventing it and reducing your risk of having it come back. Physical therapists can teach you how to utilize the following strategies to prevent back pain:

  • Participate in regular strengthening exercises to keep your back, stomach and leg muscles strong and flexible.
  • Keep your body in alignment, so that it can be more efficient when you move.
  • Keep good posture.
  • Use good body positioning at work, home or during leisure activities.
  • Maintain a regular fitness regimen, as staying active can help to prevent injuries.

Lutheran SeniorLife physical therapists are available to address your low back pain. Please call (724) 452-3492 for more information.

*Information adapted from APTA patient education article “Physical Therapist’s Guide to Low Back Pain.”