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Low Back Pain

Low back pain (LBP) is common, occuring in four out of five Canadians. Though LBP often disappears after a couple weeks, it can sometimes be chronic, and the pain can range from mild to severe. Those with back pain may have trouble doing activities such as lifting, walking, bending and sitting. Despite its reocurrence among Canadians, LBP is preventable, and can be avoided through back care strategies, exercises and knowledge.

Causes & Symptoms

Back pain is often a result of an injury or inflamation of ligaments, muscles, joints and discs.

 Common Causes:

  • Working in poor postures
  • Lifting heavy objects and/or improper lifting
  • Weak back muscles
  • Sitting for extended periods of time
  • Obesity

Common Symptoms:

  • Pain in the back
  • Pain in the leg(s)
  • A burning/tingling feeling in the legs and/or feet
  • Difficulties doing static activities such as standing or sitting
  • Difficulties doing mobile activities such as running or lifting

Prevention

LBP is preventable using a number of strategies. Regular exercise to keep your muscles flexible and strong can reduce your chance of acquiring LBP as well as other common ailments in Canadians. By building muscle strength through exercise, your muscles are better able to support your spine, eliminating some of the causes of LBP. Proper posture also is helpful in preventing back pain by reducing strain in your spine and the surrounding ligaments and muscles. Talk to a physiotherapist to discover more tips and techniques on how to safely improve your lifestyle to reduce your chances of experiencing LBP.

  • Stand up and move around as often as you can
  • Stay physically active outside of work by walking, running, biking or  participating in other activities
  • Support the curve of your lower back when sitting
  • Lift objects close to body and avoid twisting
  • Get good quality sleep, manage stress and overall health
  • Stretch as often as you can throughout the day
  • Sample stretches can be found here

What to do if you experience low back pain:

  • Stay as active as you can tolerate
  • Avoid bed rest – movement is good for your back
  • Apply heat and/or ice for 10-15 minutes

When to see a physiotherapist:

  • When your low back pain disrupts your sleep and daily routine
  • When you are unable to manage your low back pain
  • When you experience the following changes:
    • Sensation changes (numbness, tingling, burning)
    • Altered bowel and/or urinary control
    • Pain spreading away from the back into the legs and toes
    • Morning stiffness present for over an hour

What can a physiotherapist do for me?

Physiotherapists are trained to help you prevent, manage or recover from LBP. They are able to assess and diagnose LBP as well as prescribe proper exercises to help you feel like you again! Physiotherapy programs can be individualized to focus your specific needs. Physiotherapists can help you set goals and achieve them. Accessing physiotherapy early after the onset of LBP can improce the chance of resolving pain, improve your long term health, and improve your quality of life immensely. If you are experiencing LBP or would like to learn more, contact a local physiotherapist today!

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 Students from the School of Physiotherapy created printable info sheets on this topic in partnership with the Saskatchewan Physiotherapy Association and the Agricultural Health and Safety Network. Click here for the info sheets