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The Low-Down On Low Back Pain

lower back pain Apr 04, 2017

Understanding Lower Back Pain

If you are like most people suffering from chronic low back pain, you probably have been experiencing pain and discomfort for some time.

Many in this boat say that treatment works for a while, but the pain always seems to return. And there’s a reason for that. Often, the pain comes back with a vengeance because sufferers do not truly change what is causing the back pain in the first place.

Unfortunately there is no magic pill to ‘cure’ back pain, but after many years of working with clients suffering from various degrees of the condition, I have seen firsthand how such pain can be managed and alleviated. While exercising and stretching under the guidance of a knowledgeable practitioner plays a huge part in this, I believe that understanding your back pain is of utmost importance.

While I could discuss this subject for weeks, I’ve identified four core concepts to help provide you with a better understanding of lower back pain, the cause of your symptoms and the steps to developing a successful treatment plan.

You may never get a definitive diagnosis

Over 80 percent of back pain has no identifiable cause. Oftentimes with a diagnosis of HNP (Herniated Nucleus Pulposus) the herniated disc may not be what is causing your pain at all. Rather, it could be the extra 50 pounds your midsection is carrying around or the fact that you sit 10-12 hours a day. Identifying the true cause of your pain will help you carve out the proper plan of treatment that will result in lifelong success.  Which leads me to…

Your MRI and actual cause of pain can be different

Here’s a great excerpt from a prominent New York radiologist: “Medical imaging is simply one piece of the clinical puzzle. An analogy can be made with astronomy. You can image the universe at visible light, x-ray, ultraviolet, infrared, etc. Each modality provides a vital, but incomplete picture of the universe. You have to put it all together to get the big picture.”

Cause of pain and location of pain can be different

This point is probably most simply illustrated by the patient who comes in with complaints of pain in the bottom of the foot. Many patients with low back dysfunction will never actually report pain in their low back. Pain at the bottom of the foot can also be related to the lower lumbar nerve root coming from the spine. Even though there may not be any pain in the spine that is the very location where the treatment should be focused. And this is one of the many reasons to seek out treatment from a qualified and knowledgeable practitioner.

Even if symptoms disappear, your pain may return

So your physician prescribed some medications and an injection or two and your pain has disappeared. Please understand that while those treatments will help reduce inflammation, they do nothing at all to change the physical anatomy of your spine. Your pain will surely return. Most people do not wake up one morning with debilitating back pain (although I do get reports of that all the time), so you will not wake up tomorrow with a sudden cessation of all your pain either. We should focus our time on things that will actually change our physical anatomy, such as stability training, stretching, balance, posture and body awareness.

Pilates can help

Back pain can be a normal aspect of aging, secondary to poor habits or a result of injury. Regardless, it is a condition that should be met with acknowledgment, patience and, even more importantly, a change in lifestyle, particularly exercising and stretching properly.

Pilates can help! Pilates teaches us how to improve the mobility of our spine to decrease stresses placed on damaged discs. It also improved strength and flexibility, which is crucial in the recovery of back pain. If you’d like to speak to an experienced physical therapist who can assess and treat your lower back pain, schedule a FREE consultation with Pilates in the Grove!

In Health,

Christa Gurka, MSPT, PMA®-CPT

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