“90% of people who present with back pain do not have a specific cause and are easily treated by Physiotherapy”
What causes back pain?
It is estimated that 80% of people will suffer from back pain at some stage of their life – with such a high prevalence, you can imagine the cost on the public health system within Australia, which is why 4 Life Physiotherapy – a primary healthcare facility – can help with your back pain. So how do we know what causes back pain and when it’s serious?
Back pain can be categorized based on clinical presentation and also duration. Acute back pain is an episode lasting less than 6 weeks, sub-acute being 6-12 weeks and chronic back pain over 12 weeks. With categories including non-specific low back pain (NSLBP), serious and specific causes of low back pain – let’s delve into those 3 categories a bit more.
Non-Specific Low Back Pain (NSLBP), or “mechanical back pain”
This term is used as an umbrella term to classify all types of back pain once pathology has been cleared. You may or may not have heard this term before but as the statistics estimate, NSLBP accounts for around 90% of all back pain presentations – which is great news for individuals!
Your back pain could have been due to a long days work in the garden a couple of days ago, lifting those heavy boxes to help a family member move house, that long car trip back from up north, pushing hard at the gym with deadlifts, playing too many minutes of a tough footy game or sometimes due to a sedentary weekend binging Netflix! Our 4 Life Physiotherapists will figure out the cause, rule out anything serious and then manage and treat your back to return you to full function for that next holiday, next sporting game, next gym session or to make getting off the couch that bit easier. Whatever your personal goal is, we can help you achieve it!
Specific causes of low back pain
Of the 80% of the population, about 8% are estimated to have specific causes of their pain. These include disc herniation, osteoporosis, scoliosis (curvature of the spine), stenosis (narrowing of the spinal canal/compression of the spinal cord) or radiculopathy (impaired nerve function from spinal nerve root) are the main conditions. Just because there is a specific cause for the pain does not mean it is worse or will last longer.
A review of 11 studies reported that it is estimated two-thirds (66.66%) of low back disc herniation’s spontaneously resolve which is why conservative (Physiotherapy) management is very beneficial as first-line treatment. Your Physiotherapist can give you the confidence, education and guidance to return to normal function and doing the activities you love.
When seeing your 4 Life Physiotherapist, the initial assessment includes multiple questions to rule out serious pathology as the cause of back pain. Of the 80% of the population that have back pain, it is estimated that only 1-2% is caused by serious pathology – so it is highly unlikely that you are the 1-2%! But, of course, if your Physiotherapist is concerned they may refer you to your GP for further follow up or even the Emergency Department.
In next month’s blog, we will outline Physiotherapy for back pain and how we can help reduce your pain and improve your movement safely.
See you soon @ 4 Life!
Written by Cassie Budd, Physiotherapist at 4 Life Physiotherapy Mandurah.