Low back pain is one of the most common reasons people seek medical care. It is estimated that 80% of the U.S. population will experience low back pain at least once in their lifetime. Additionally, 25% of Americans report at least one full day of low back pain within a three-month span of time. That means one out of every four people reading this article will have suffered from low back pain in the past three months. That’s a lot of people!
While back pain is common, it is not normal and you don’t have to suffer through it. Here are the 3 back pain treatment options you need to know about.
*Please note that this information should not be taken as individualized medical advice. Consult your trusted healthcare provider for any questions.
- The vast majority of back pain is caused by movement problems.
There is a huge problem in our country related to movement. People either don’t move well, or they don’t move enough. Healthy movement is critical for joint health. Just like the Tin Man in the Wizard of Oz was stiff and uncomfortable from not moving, the same applies to the joints in our body.
The spine is simply a series of bones (aka vertebrae) connected by joints. It is so important to move well through the joints of your spine and have strong muscles to support it. This will protect your back from injury, prevent pain, and allow you to move freely.
You may be thinking, “Well, I have a disc problem, or a pinched nerve, or arthritis in my back.” While those things are very real, the cause stems from movement problems. To get rid of your pain for good, you must address the movement issue.
- You probably don’t need an x-ray or MRI.
There is a very low correlation between imaging results and how you feel physically—in fact, the two only line up about 20% of the time. Not to mention, both x-rays and MRIs can be very expensive.
Based on research, imaging results are not recommended as a first line of treatment for low back pain (as long as you didn’t have a traumatic injury such as a fall, and if your healthcare provider doesn’t suspect a serious medical condition). Remember, movement problems are the most common cause of low back pain but they can’t be detected through imaging. It’s in your best interest to try a conservative type of treatment first.
- Physical therapy can fix your back pain.
Physical therapy is an ideal first treatment for low back pain. When done well, it identifies and fixes the movement problem causing your low back pain. Physical therapists are experts with specific training in optimizing movement. And if it isn’t a movement problem, they will send you to the provider you need to see to treat your pain.
The great news is that physical therapists have direct access, meaning you don’t need a referral to schedule a visit. Research shows that when patients consult physical therapists for low back pain first, they spend less money overall. Additionally, they are less likely to be prescribed opioids, go to the emergency room, or undergo costly imaging.
If you’ve had physical therapy in the past and you didn’t get the results you wanted, try seeing a different physical therapist. All physical therapists are different, and someone else may be able to better accommodate your needs.
Just like you wouldn’t write off all vegetables as being bad because you don’t like carrots, don’t write off all physical therapists because of one past experience you didn’t like. Finding the best provider for you is extremely important!
Have questions? Let’s chat!