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The low-down on low back pain.

Many of us have, will have, or have previously suffered low back pain

The best source I can find (International Journal for the Study of Pain, IASP) suggests over 500million people world wide are affected by low back pain at any point in time.

The same source, published last year, contains some great information worth sharing, but the two headline bullet points underline a lot of the frustrations around back pain.

  • "Low back pain is not usually associated with a specific identifiable pathoanatomical cause."

This meaning, medical diagnostic tests are not particularly reliable for proving the structural source of pain. Scans only tell a part of a story in low back pain but unfortunately are easy to point a finger at.

This effectively means that in ~90% of cases we can't accurately tell someone that walks in the door with a sore back which bone, joint, ligament, disc, or muscle is 'injured'. Experience has taught physiotherapy as a profession that in many people, it is unwise to hold up specific diagnosis as a goal when it can simply lead to frustration.

We find it much more helpful to define back pain by behaviour - does it spread? what aggravates it? Does your back have comfortable postures we can take advantage of? This approach allows physiotherapists a chance to individualise treatment.

The second bullet point is hard to deny.

  • "Low back pain is the leading cause of global disability."

The social, financial, physical and emotional hardship due to low back pain is enormous. Unfortunately, many people suffer greatly in the otherwise prime of their lives.

At the end of the day, physiotherapy is about improving function, and reducing impacts of disability.

Speak with a physiotherapist about an individualised plan to manage low back pain, you will come away with a better arsenal of tools for self-management than any other profession.

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