Managing Low Back Pain

Low back pain is one of the most common musculoskeletal conditions that affect adults.  Current research suggests that 80% of the population have experienced an episode of low back pain in the past year alone.

The low back consists of five vertebrae and discs surrounding by a number of muscles and ligaments which assist with stability and mobility.  Given the complexity of the spine, symptoms can be caused by a number of factors including trauma, fatigue, ligamentous sprains or disc injuries.

If faced with low back pain, there are several strategies that should be implemented in the early stages to maximise a speedy recovery.

1. Keep Active

Despite the temptation to remain inactive, keeping active is one of the most beneficial strategies to manage low back pain in the early stages.  Prolonged sitting or resting can actually increase inflammation and increase the likelihood of muscle spasm and stiffness.

A great guideline to follow is that if you are experiencing a dull ache, you can continue with the activity.  Sharp and localised pain in the low back region should be minimised by avoiding those particular tasks.

2. Hot of cold?

Using a heat pack or ice pack can also be useful to provide pain relief in the early stages of low back pain.  A warm shower or heat pack can often provide relief from muscle spasm and stiffness.        Heat is most useful when you have experienced a gradual onset of symptoms without any particular incident or injury.

If you have experienced low back pain from a specific incident, it is recommended to ice the region.

Importantly, regardless of whether you are using a heat pack or ice pack, never apply it directly to your skin.  Always use a cover.

3. Seek assistance early

Your physiotherapist or health professional can assist to expedite the recovery process.  Not only can this reduce the symptoms, but importantly reduce the likelihood of recurrent episodes or symptoms.  Therapeutic exercises that focus on flexibility or strengthening are highly encouraged to reduce the stress and strain being placed throughout the lower spine.

Learn more about back pain on the latest episode of The Better Ageing Podcast:

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