Around 80% of us will experience some kind of back pain in our lives. It can vary from the odd twinge to debilitating pain lasting years, but in almost all cases taking it easy is not the solution. Keeping active is often the best remedy, although you need to ensure that what you are doing is appropriate and will not make the problem worse.
Can physiotherapy help back pain?
Doctors refer patients for physiotherapy (also called physical therapy or physio) as it helps to improve mobility and your body’s ability to heal itself following surgery, illness, respiratory problems and injury. This includes helping to reduce back pain and preventing it from recurring. Physiotherapists are trained healthcare professionals.
When should I consider physiotherapy for treating back pain?
Physio may help people manage back pain regardless of how long they have experienced symptoms before seeking treatment. However, 2012 research found that patients who saw a physiotherapist within two weeks of their initial consultation for low back pain were over 50% less likely to need further treatment, such as surgery or steroid injections, than those who waited 90 days.
What will my physiotherapist do?
Your physiotherapist will make an assessment to identify the reason for your back pain and produce recommendations tailored to you to ease the pain and treat the cause. This may include exercises and stretches, soft tissue mobilisation (such as massage), and electrotherapy. They will also advise you on improving posture, how to lift and carry heavy objects, changes to lifestyle and other ways you can take control of the situation to reduce pain and prevent a recurrence. Most physical therapy treatment programmes will be carried out over a number of weeks and you will be asked to do specific exercises in between appointments.
What else can I do?
You may not be able to prevent back pain completely, but there are steps you can take to reduce your risks of suffering back pain again and to reduce the impact back pain has on your life if it strikes again:
- Try to maintain good posture, especially if you spend long periods of time sat at a desk or in a car;
- Look after your back by keeping active – walking or swimming are both low impact exercises that can really help. Choose something you enjoy, as exercise needs to be regular;
- Learn how to lift heavy object correctly, or use equipment to help you. Bend from your knees and hips keeping your back straight;
- Listen to your body. If you’ve been sitting still for a long period of time and start to feel stiff try some simple stretches to keep your back flexible.