What should you do if you suffer from lower back pain?
- Get it checked out by a medical professional to make sure it’s nothing serious (physio, doctor, osteo etc.)
- Short-term physiotherapy interventions can be very useful in the acute stage of lower back pain.
- Exercise has the best evidence behind it for lowering pain levels at 3 and 6 months.
Should I get a MRI?
Many people present here at the clinic with lower back pain, and while there are a myriad of reasons that somebody may be experiencing lower back pain, one thing is generally accepted within the Physiotherapy community – running to get an MRI won’t help. I must contextualise this by stating that each person’s presentation is different and indeed if more sinister symptoms are present, then your physiotherapist will be the first to refer you for further investigation, which may include MRI imaging.
I have this discussion with many patients regarding imaging, many want to have a scan and usually present the case – “isn’t it better to know anyway”, in one form or another. Well, a few things here, firstly, no it isn’t! Research would indicate that having a scan doesn’t make for a more positive outcome in the short or long term and in fact in some cases may actually lead to a more negative outcome due to catastrophising of one’s symptoms. The second reason is down to the fact that as we grow older our bodies change and a huge proportion of us will have disc and joint degeneration and even bulging discs without any symptoms, and so MRI imaging can present red herrings that may not expedite the recovery process.
Indeed I believe the most prudent way at dealing with lower back pain is addressing the clinical picture that each individual is presenting with, address any behavioural or attitude changes regarding their injury and implement a practical and appropriate exercise programme along with any hands on Physiotherapy techniques that your therapist may advise (dry needling, mobilisation, manipulation etc.)
What kind of exercise should you do?
This will vary depending on the source of your lower back pain. In truth, there is no form of exercise that has been proven to be better than others for lower back pain. That goes for Pilates, Yoga, tennis, walking your dog, back-specific exercises or any other trendy exercise classes that may be in vogue.
Gary Delahunt BSc MSc (Sports Medicine)
Senior Physiotherapist Peak Physio