Management of non-specific back pain

Nonspecific back pain refers to pain in the back due to an unknown cause. This type of pain may be persistent and disabling and may or may not respond readily to over the counter drugs. Not having a plausible explanation for your condition can cause some anxiety. However, physiotherapy may provide relief.

Your visit to the physiotherapist begins with an assessment of your condition. We will ask you a number of questions relating to your pain, lifestyle and mechanism of injury. Your current level of functioning will then be evaluated and a program of pain management, exercises and education will be drawn up. We may also observe you in the performance of your daily duties to better determine the source of the problem.

Initially, your therapy will focus on pain management in the form of heat treatments such as hot packs, or deep heat in the form of ultrasound. Manual therapy, in which the spine is manipulated, is very effective in dealing with low back pain. This would be accompanied by patient education regarding posture, movement and body mechanics; the way we lift, bend and carry objects.

In most cases of low back pain, the muscles that support the back – the deep abdominal muscles and those of the lumbar spine are in a weakened state and their stabilising action is disrupted. Strengthening these muscles through a lumbar stabilisation program is an important addition to your physiotherapy treatment. The exercises help to improve strength and flexibility to the lumbar region in a pain-free range. They not only alleviate the symptoms, but create movement and postural awareness as well as coordination.

Some cases of low back pain may resolve within 2-4 weeks. Those persons who are still experiencing symptoms after this time, are usually advised by their doctors to return to work and normal activities. The reason for this is that activity will promote flexibility of the lower back and promote healing. For chronic back pain, treatment may be done in a group setting. This method is cost effective and entails the same program of education, exercises and pain management in a supervised environment. Whatever the setting, physiotherapy can go a long way in eliminating or managing low back pain.

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