If you have low back or lumbar pain, you are not alone. At any given time, about 25% of people in the United States report having low back pain within the past three months. In most cases, low back pain is mild and disappears on its own. For some people, back pain can return or hang on, leading to a decrease in quality of life or even to disability.
The symptoms of low back pain vary a great deal. Your pain might be dull, burning, or sharp. You might feel it at a single point or over a broad area. It might be accompanied by muscle spasms or stiffness. Sometimes, it might spread into 1 or both legs.
There are three different types of low back pain:
- Acute – pain lasting less than three months
- Recurrent – acute symptoms come back
- Chronic – pain lasting longer than three months
Most people who have an episode of acute pain will have at least one recurrence. While the actual cause of low back pain isn’t often known, symptoms usually resolve on their own. Psychosocial factors, such as self-confidence and a perceived ability to cope with disability, have been shown to be predictors of who might not recover from low back pain as expected. We used to believe the cause of low back pain was related directly to the tissues of our body, but are now understanding the condition to be more complex.
For most cases of low back pain imaging tests, such as x-rays, computed tomography (CT) scans, and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) are not helpful for recovery. For example, in a recently published article comparing patients who received an MRI first vs physical therapy first for low back pain, the patients who received an MRI first spent on average $4,793 more (with similar outcomes in each group). If your physical therapist suspects that your low back pain might be caused by a serious health condition, the therapist will refer you to other health care professionals for further evaluation.
After a comprehensive evaluation our physical therapists at Progressive Physical Therapy can help you improve or restore mobility and reduce low back or lumbar pain with a personalized treatment plan—in many cases, without expensive surgery or the side effects of medications. We will also educate you on proper posture and body mechanics at home and work and ways to reduce unwanted stress on your back that can lead to further symptoms.