Alleviate lower back pain: Physical therapy options to get your life back

woman holding lower back in pain

Are you suffering from lower back pain? You’re not alone. Back pain affects 4 in 5 Americans at one point or another. It is one of the most common reasons people see a doctor or miss work. The lower back, or lumbar region, is the area most people experience pain. There are many solutions to alleviate lower back pain, including physical therapy. After all, pain does not have to control or limit your life.  

Our physical therapists don’t just provide lower back pain management; they strive to get you to an even better place than you were before your lower back started hurting. Our personalized physical therapy and exercise program is designed to build up a reserve of strength, flexibility, stability and range of motion so you can live your best life. To do this, we work to increase strength and stability in the spine, muscles and surrounding joints so you stay active beyond normal everyday activities. This approach is different than what you get with a personal trainer, or chiropractor because physical therapists are movement system specialists that will not only diagnose the problem but identify the underlying movement problems that cause pain to return. 

Common types of lower back pain 

Pain can make normal activities seem like a chore. But your pain does not have to control you. If you’re experiencing any of these symptoms of low back pain and are looking for relief, give us a call for a free consultation

  • Dull, aching pain that doesn’t go away 
  • Pain that travels to the buttocks and down the legs, perhaps related to sciatica (learn more about sciatic nerve pain in this blog post) 
  • Pain that’s worse after sitting (from putting pressure on your discs) 
  • Pain that feels better when changing positions  
  • Pain that’s worse after waking up, but that gets better after moving around 
  • Pain that develops over time, perhaps from repetitive motions or positions (like after a long day at work or continuously performing golf swings) 

Common causes of lower back pain 

An aching lower back can be caused by several problems and everyone’s experience is different. The source of the pain isn’t always obvious. It can stem from places outside the back including the pelvis, hip or knee.  

No matter what kind of low back pain you’re experiencing, it’s important to be evaluated by a medical professional. A physical therapist can help determine if your lower back pain is related to one of these causes

Injuries: 

  • Sprains – Overstretched or torn ligaments. 
  • Strains – Small tears in tendons or muscles. 
  • Spasms – Sudden contraction of a muscle or group of muscles. 
  • Traumatic injury – Sports or an accident can injure tendons, ligaments and muscles. 

Progressive symptoms: 

  • Disc deterioration – Discs wear down with age, losing their cushioning ability. 
  • Spondylosis – General age-related deterioration from wear and tear on joints, discs and bones (while this may sound like a severe condition, it’s a normal part of aging).  
  • Arthritis and rheumatoid arthritis  

Overuse: 

  • When one area of the spine is repeatedly stressed, it may begin to degenerate. A lack of adequate recovery after activity-related stress on the spine is another culprit.  

Nerve and spinal cord problems: 

  • Spinal nerve compression or injury – Nerves that come off the spinal cord get compressed and cause pain and weakness. 
  • Sciatica – Pressure or inflammation occurs around a nerve(s) coming from your spine. Learn more about sciatica in this blog post. 
  • Spinal stenosis – Narrowing of the spinal canal that causes pain when standing or walking. 
  • Spondylolisthesis – One vertebra slips on another causing the spinal canal to narrow and joints and nerves pressure. 
  • Herniated or ruptured discs – Discs are worn, damaged or torn over time. (Smoking is a risk factor for herniated discs because discs don’t typically heal as well for smokers.) 
  • Infections – Can contribute to inflammation of the discs. 
  • Cauda equina syndrome – Serious condition that requires medical attention. The spinal cord is compressed, causing severe neurological impairment with loss of normal bowel and bladder function. 
  • Osteoporosis – Weakening of the bones that causes risk of spinal fractures and deformities (changes in shape and function). 

Issues present from birth: 

  • Skeletal abnormalities
  • Spina bifida

Non-spinal causes: 

  • Kidney stones 
  • Endometriosis 
  • Fibromyalgia 
  • Tumors 
  • Pregnancy 

Sometimes, non-spinal issues appear to be caused by a spine-related issue. However, the back is tricky and painful areas are often not the source of problem. For instance, stiff areas don’t always produce pain. Instead, they cause nearby areas of the spine to move more, leading to more stress and potentially more pain. The Excel Physical Therapy team can help you pinpoint where your pain is coming from to help alleviate it.   

woman with low back pain at physical therapy appointment

How lower back pain is diagnosed 

Here at Excel Physical Therapy, lower back pain is diagnosedwith a holistic exam. Rather than focusing only on a specific area of the body, we examine each patient as a whole. We ask questions like, what causes your lower back pain to feel worse (and better)? And what positions and activities are less than comfortable? We examine your movement or and the general flexibility of your upper-, mid- and lower-back, as well as your hips and legs.  

We want to talk about the things you do daily—at home, on the job and at play. We take a thorough history on your pain and past injuries. Evaluating you as a whole and carefully listening to you helps paint the big picture so we can discover the root issue.  

X-Rays and MRIs are often unnecessary for diagnosing lower back pain. However, if your lower back pain is severe or not improving with treatment, our physical therapists may refer you to a specialized physician to get a clearer picture of what’s going on through X-Ray or MRI. 

Schedule an appointment today for a personalized treatment plan designed to help relieve your lower back pain as quickly as possible. 

Excel Physical Therapy offers strength and stability for everyday activities—and beyond 

When you schedule an appointment with Excel Physical Therapy, you not only get an assessment of your injury, but also what may have caused it and steps you can take to improve it. 

After your assessment, we develop an individualized physical therapy plan for your lower back pain. Many of our patients find success with combination of therapy appointments and at-home exercises. What are you waiting for? It’s time to get back to enjoying life more. 

Set up an appointment today for a personalized treatment plan designed to help you live life as freely and fully as possible.