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by Morgan Mowers, PT, DPT, FAFS

Posted in Blog.

August 10th, 2020

Five Things You Should Know About Low Back Pain

1- It is probably not coming from your low back.

Low back pain rarely actually stems from the low back. We call this blaming the victim instead of the criminal. Oftentimes, pain in this region stems from lack of mobility or strength in the joint or group of joints above or below the region, such as the thoracic spine (mid-back) or hips. Consistently cracking the low back and ignoring other joints can lead to further pain down the road.


2- Imaging may not be a reliable source for figuring out the root cause of your pain.

While an MRI may suggest disc disorders in the lumbar spine, this is often not the actual cause of pain. Once serious problems are ruled out by a physician, minor findings (such as minimal disc degenerations) are of no value in helping to explain the vast majority of aches and pain. Degenerative changes are present in 40% of people under the age of 30, and 90% of individuals over 55, most of whom do not have any symptoms. For this reason, studies show that imaging may even be more harmful to chronic pain from a psychological perspective.


3- Movement is GOOD!

Your instinct might be to lay around and stop moving, but daily pain-free physical activity can actually decrease low back pain, as it can improve mobility and strength in the legs which will reduce stress on the low back. If there are specific movements that elicit pain, be sure to tell a movement specialist who can analyze the biomechanics of such activities to find pain-free ways for you to do them. 


4- Quick fixes won’t work long term.

Imagine having a leak in your house. A quick fix like throwing some tape over it will help for a bit, but that will require you to waste a ton of time and tape over the years. Instead, fixing the root cause of the leak will lead to lasting results and less water damage. Similarly, taking pain medication or receiving steroid injections may decrease pain temporarily, but the pain will return. Fixing your movement patterns and the actual cause of your low back pain will lead to lasting results and an improved quality of life.


5- A physical therapist can be a critical member of your pain management team.

Physical therapists are movement specialists of all joints in the body, including the spine. We not only manage patients’ symptoms but analyze patients’ full movement patterns in order to identify the true “criminal” in low back pain. We help patients return to the activities they love, whether that means running in the park, playing with their children, or achieving a personal best in a triathlon.


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