You can recover from lower back pain

BACK pain is second only to headache as the most common cause of pain.

It can be acute, intermittent or chronic and is mostly caused by minor injuries, slipped discs, facet joint problems or arthritis.

Ageing, a sedentary lifestyle, poor posture, obesity, genetic factors, certain work environments, pregnancy, smoking and even psychological factors can put one at risk of backache. Good back hygiene and regular exercise can prevent or postpone back problems.

It is National Back Week (3 to 9 September) and the focus is on how physiotherapy can help you to return to maximum independence.

“One of the biggest obstacles to leading a life of well-being, of functioning at your best without having to think about it, is pain,” says Dr Witness Mudzi, president of the South African Society of Physiotherapy.

Some symptoms – such as back pain combined with bladder or bowel control problems – are cause for contacting a doctor immediately. Eighty to 90 percent of back pain resolves spontaneously within six weeks.

Less than 5 % of back pain patients will need an operation. Always ask for a second opinion if back surgery has been recommended.

Back pain can occur anywhere along the spine, but the most common site is the lower back or lumbar region. The lower part of the back bears the weight of the upper body, as well as any weight you’re carrying. It also twists and bends more than the upper back.

A simple clinical examination by a physiotherapist along with some advice is often enough to set one on the road to self-managed recovery.

Back pain may be acute, recurrent or chronic. Most cases of back pain are acute – the pain starts suddenly and intensely – and usually last a short time (less than a month).

Acute back pain is not usually caused by a serious medical condition and most cases resolve within a few days. Recurrence is, however, common and takes the form of repeated episodes of acute pain with pain-free intervals. Chronic back pain is present all the time, persists beyond three months and even slight movements can trigger it. Recurrent or chronic pain is usually more intractable than acute pain and often requires specialist advice.