If you are looking to heal naturally, i.e., without medications, painful spinal injections, or surgery, and you’re looking to get back to normal again–that is, get your life back and feel younger, stronger, and more energetic, and not have to think about the activities that you do before you do them, such as “I have to think about how I’m going to get out of the car,” or “I have to think about how I’m going to get dressed in the morning”–if that is you, the first thing you would want to do on your journey to natural healing is to find out the cause. In this 3-part series, I will go over the 3 most common causes of Lower Back Pain and Sciatica that I see in my clinic.
1) HERNIATED DISC
A person with a herniated disc will typically feel very sharp pain in their lower back, right above their tailbone, that may travel down into the buttocks and into the leg, sometimes going all the way down into the foot. This individual is typically younger, under the age of 35. There is usually some history of trauma, such as a fall or a motor vehicle accident, or they do something where they are repeatedly bending forward over and over and over (often an occupational hazard consisting of repetitive bending, lifting, and twisting). One alarming statistic with disc herniations is that research has shown that if you took 100 people off of the street, and none of them had any pain whatsoever, and gave each one a MRI, 80% would have a disc bulge or a disc herniation (yet they are completely pain free).
HOW CAN PHYSICAL THERAPY HELP TREAT A HERNIATED DISC?
The big question most individuals want answered is “Can a herniated disc heal without medications, painful injections, or surgery?” The answer, taken in several scientific polls involving orthopedic surgeons, is “YES.” So what can physical therapy do? The main goal is to get you back to doing the activities that you love. This most typically will involve skilled, hands-on treatment by your physical therapist that may include mobilization, manipulation, soft tissue work, such as massage or myofascial release, or a combination of techniques. A postural assessment is also performed to look for areas out of alignment, as well as provide instruction on how to properly sit, stand, bend, lift, and sleep. Successful treatment also includes a detailed, specific exercise program tailored to meet your individual needs, and might consist of stretching and flexibility, strengthening, and often cardio work as well.
You may, quite reasonably, assume that pain is a warning sign that tells us if something hurts, we should avoid doing that activity. Very often this is true, and where an experienced Physical Therapist is critical in being able to diagnose your condition accurately. However, when dealing with back pain, it is often necessary to work through the pain and to overcome it. There are often psychosocial barriers to active rehabilitation that may ultimately lead to a chronic condition. Some of these barriers, also called yellow flags according to a May 2011 article in Physical Therapy, include:
- Belief that pain and activity are harmful
- Social withdrawal
- Emotional problems, such as depression, anxiety, stress, and a negative mindset
- Sickness behaviors, such as extended rest
- problems with claims or compensation, or time off work
- Overprotective family; lack of support
- Inappropriate expectations of treatment, including low expectations of active participation in treatment.
(Taken from Nicholas MK, Linton SJ, Watson PJ, et al; Early identification and management of psychological risk factors (“yellow flags”) in patients with low back pain: a reappraisal. Phys Ther. 2011 May;91(5):737-753. doi: 10.2522/ptj;20100224. Epub 2011 Mar 30.)
If you or a loved one is experiencing any of the symptoms described above, don’t wait to take action–call my office at once at (302)691-9055, or visit my website at www.wildermanpt.com to schedule your free, 30-minute consultation to see how Physical Therapy can help you. Don’t delay–if you need some more help with back pain please call my clinic at (302)691-9055, or request my free information report which shows the 14 ways to ease back pain by clicking on the report.