Low Back Pain: Causes and Conservative Treatments
by Amelie Alba, PT, OISI Therapy
– age related degenerative changes OR injury
– arthritis (a gradual degeneration of cartilage in your spine)
– stenosis (narrowing of spinal canal that can cause nerve impingement and pain)
– disc dysfunction – herniated or bulging discs can also cause nerve pain
– myofascial pain – muscle and/or soft tissue pain which can be of unknown origin
Physical Therapy: Exercise is the foundation of conservative treatment for low back pain. Every body is different and certain exercises may not be appropriate for all types of back pain. Exercise programs should be individualized to your particular symptoms and/or condition. Most programs will include postural strengthening, stretching/flexibility exercises, aerobic exercises, balance training and core strengthening. Other treatments such as needling, massage, electrical stimulation, and ultrasound may be used to help with pain as well. Maintaining good compliance with exercise program and activity level is key to preventing further injuries.
Diet: Inflammatory diets have been shown to increase pain levels – avoid refined sugars, processed foods, or foods high in trans fats. The weight loss that comes with a healthier diet will decrease the pressure on your spine and can result in less pain as well.
Lifestyle: Recognizing and accepting your limitations will go a long way towards protecting your back day to day. You may need to adapt and change the way you do certain activities. Take breaks before you need them to avoid painful flare-ups. Pay attention to movements or activities that increase your pain, and try to avoid or change those activities so they are not so strenuous. Smoking, although it feels like it may be helping you cope with your pain, can actually increase your pain levels as nicotine has been shown to increase pain and decrease rate of healing.
Medications: Your doctor may prescribe or recommend nerve pain medications, anti-inflammatory medications, and muscle relaxants that can be very helpful in managing your symptoms.
Injection-based Treatments: Pain management injections such as nerve blocks, nerve ablations, or epidural steroid injections can significantly decrease pain levels.