Updated: Sep 23
Low back pain is one of the most common musculoskeletal impairments and is the leading cause of activity limitation and work absence throughout the world. (Ref 1.) Some episodes of low back pain can be debilitating and scary, but the majority of low back pain episodes (90-95% of episodes) are rarely dangerous or life threatening.
Imaging is not usually indicated or needed for low back pain as long as, serious pathology is ruled out. Studies have shown that disc herniations, arthritis, disc degeneration and other spinal conditions found with imaging also occur in people without back pain. In fact, receiving x-ray or MRI result can cause more psychological harm than good as scans can change over time and results of a scan can add stress, anxiety and worry about conditions that are not good predictors of your pain. (Ref 2.)
There is no one cause of low back pain and episodes are associated with a number of things including type of work, poor sleep, stressors, unaccustomed activities, inactivity, obesity, and other lifestyle factors. More often, an acute episode of low back pain will resolve in a few weeks.
Things you can do to help your pain in the meantime include:
Avoiding bed rest
Staying active but limiting the amount of pain during those activities
Use hot packs or cold packs for pain management
Follow up with your physician or a physical therapist
Your therapist can educate you on activity modifications to help reduce your pain. If your episode lasts for a few weeks or is recurrent, your therapist can perform a thorough evaluation to determine if a specific activity, your mobility or your strength is contributing to pain episodes.
Low back pain can be debilitating, but in most cases, will resolve over time. In any case, knowing what to do can help ease the pain. Physical therapy can help guide you through a painful episode and reduce or prevent future episodes. If you or someone you care about would like help, contact us. We've helped thousands of patients find relief from low back pain over the past 42 years