I Have Low Back Pain

To Move Or Not To Move? That Is The Question!

If you have ever had even a single episode of Low Back Pain (LBP) you’re not alone.  LBP affects approximately 60-85% of adults at some point in their lifetime. In fact, the United States spends approximately 80 billion dollars per year on managing LBP and it is one of the leading causes for visits to a Primary Care Physician.

The good news is that if you recently began experiencing LBP, there is a 9 in 10 chance that your pain will subside within a couple of months.  Long standing studies have demonstrated that up to 90% of all cases of LBP will subside within six weeks of their onset almost regardless of how, or if, they are treated. 

For the limited few whose pain does not spontaneously subside in 6 weeks, life can be difficult and frustrating. 15-45% of individuals have chronic LBP, meaning their symptoms have persisted for longer than three months. Most have seen their doctor and been diagnosed with “degenerative disc disease” or “lumbar spondylosis”.  Interestingly enough, disc degenerative findings including height loss and bulges are seen in up to 90% of the general asymptomatic population with imaging.

But what does it mean to have degenerative disc disease or spondylosis?  To put it simply, both are common aging conditions of the spine often referred to as “wear and tear”. Degenerative disc disease originates from the changes in the discs between the vertebrae.  These changes can include narrowing, loss of flexibility, decreased disc height, and/or herniation.  Think of a water balloon in between your vertebrae becoming smaller in size and flattening due to the common aging process.

Spondylosis is a more general term that can be applied to degenerative conditions involving other spinal structures such as the vertebral bodies and joints of the lumbar spine.

Once someone is evaluated by a physician and diagnosed with degenerative disc disease or lumbar spondylosis, exercise is often prescribed as the first line of treatment.  This is where Physical Therapy can help.  As physical therapists, we are movement experts with extensive education in human anatomy, biomechanics, movement patterns, and exercise as a primary form of treatment.

Often low back pain patients are hesitant to move for fear of worsening symptoms. However, decades of research have been consistent in the support of exercise as an effective and helpful therapy for individuals with LBP.

Most studies examining exercise and its effect on LBP have demonstrated reductions in pain ranging anywhere from 10-60%. Imagine being able to cut your LBP in half by doing some core strengthening!

Exercise for patients with chronic low back pain has three main goals:

  1. To improve lumbar ROM and core strength.
  2. To decrease the intensity of LBP
  3. To reduce back pain-related disability

Collectively, achieving these goals will result in an optimal level of independence with activities of daily living.

So, if you feel like you’ve tried everything under the sun and have had limited success managing your back pain but have not tried a biomechanically based, scientific core flexibility and strengthening program, it might be time to call a good physical therapist.  We can help you identify weaknesses, build strength and improve function.  We can help you get your life back.  It’s just what we do. Please contact us today at Plymouth Bay Orthopedic Associates in Plymouth, MA to book an appointment.