Choose PT First for Low Back Pain

Around four out of five people have low back pain at some point in their lives. Low back pain is one of the most common reasons people visit their healthcare providers.  

What Can Cause Low Back Pain?

  • As people age, bodies change. Being less active can accelerate changes including reduced flexibility and strength, which can result ini pain and stiffness.
  • People who are carrying excess weight are more likely to suffer from low back pain with the added weight increasing pressure on the joints of the body.
  • Repetitive lifting and bending as part of your daily work can increase the risk of injury.
  • Acute injury from overexertion including lifting a heavy object or performing several hours of activity that your body isn’t prepared for.

Evidence has shown that most patients with low back pain can recover faster when the patient chooses physical therapy first. PT is a less costly alternative to medication, surgery, and other invasive medical procedures. This is why states have passed legislation allowing patients to go directly to a physical therapist without a physician’s referral.  

Don’t Be a Statistic

  • $50 billion is spent on back pain annually
  • There are 31 million people with back pain
  • 50% of working Americans admit to back pain
  • Only 7% of low back pain patients go to see a physical therapist

For the senior population, Physical Therapist Thad Poitevint goes by the mantra, “Check yourself and correct yourself before you end up with pain.” He adds, “Go heavy on the emphasis on good body mechanics and positioning with the senior population. I tell them to check their posture and make corrections in real time. Small changes that are made consistently over time can help prevent low back pain and other spine issues.”  

How to Prevent Low Back Pain

You can’t prevent all lower back pain, but you do have control over some aspects in your life that can help.

  • Maintain a healthy weight.
  • Get regular exercise to maintain flexibility and strength.
  • Reduce risk of injury when lifting by testing the weight, keeping the object as close as possible, engaging your core, and using your legs.  
  • Avoid bending and twisting at the same time.  

Physical therapy can help determine the cause of your back pain and design a treatment plan that is specific to you and your goals. If back pain is changing how you move, impacting daily function, or limiting the activities you enjoy, contact a physical therapist to schedule an appointment.

Ask an Expert: Do I Need to Stop Running?

I have been diagnosed with Osteoarthritis (OA). Do I need to stop running or participating in sports?

This is a question that we are asked regularly during physical therapy sessions! A recent 2020 meta-analysis by Zampogna et al on of the effects of activity in people with OA concluded that, “compared to controls, aquatic exercise, land-based exercise, tai chi, and yoga showed a small to high effect for improving pain, physical function, quality of life, and stiffness. Active exercise and sport are effective to improve pain and physical function in elderly people with osteoarthritis.”

Furthermore, a 2018 study by Lo et al. in The Journal of Clinical Rheumatology concluded that, “among individuals over 50 years old with knee OA, self-selected running is associated with improved knee pain and not with worsening knee pain or radiographically defined structural progression.”

That being said, I recommend avoiding contact sports which have a higher risk of orthopedic injury, such as tackle football and rugby. I also recommend a well-rounded exercise program which incorporates mobility, balance and strengthening exercises into your regular routine.

When progressing activity, it’s a good idea to gradually increase intensity or duration of activities by no more than 10% per week. For example, if you normally run for 20 minutes on the treadmill at 7 mph and you want to progress this activity, you can either increase the time to 22 minutes or increase the speed to 7.1 mph.

If you are limited in your daily life and recreational activities due to pain, stiffness or weakness then consider making an appointment with a physical therapist to help you get moving again!