Lower back pain and “sciatica”
Many names exist for this problem including “slipped disc”, “sciatica”, “lumbago” and “trapped nerve” People often describe sharp stabbing pain when they move and frequent achiness and stiffness especially in the mornings. Most lower back pain happens for little or no reason and can come on gradually or suddenly. It can “creep up” on you so that your back gradually gets stiffer then starts to hurt. Eventually it can feel like it has “seized up” and all movements are painful. Back pain can also come on suddenly, possibly accompanied by leg pain or “sciatica” after bending forward or following prolonged sitting while travelling. Less often it is caused by trauma such as a fall. Regardless of how it starts the pain can often be disabling and frightening but the good news is that for most people it is totally treatable with a combination of “hands on” treatment, an appropriate exercise programme and simple postural changes to decrease the excessive load on the spine and allow the tissues to heal and become stronger.
Stephen came to Stranmillis Physiotherapy complaining of low back pain and stiffness which had come and gone over the past 10 years but now seems to be happening more often and lasting longer. This most recent episode came on after he had spent a few nights sleeping in a caravan 2 weeks previous to his visit and the pain has persisted ever since. Stephen works as a Sales Rep., so spends most of his time sitting either at a desk or in his car. He used to run several times a week doing around 5km each time but hasn’t done any running for about a year due to work and family commitments and admits to being afraid of making his back worse. Assessment of his alignment and sitting posture revealed marked stiffness in his back, weakness of his deep muscle layers and stooped posture. He was treated with various joint and soft-tissue techniques which settled his pain. He was taught some exercises to reduce the stress on his back and to address his poor sitting posture. A return to running programme was devised and a post-run stretching programme was taught. Stephen was advised on how to manage any symptoms that might arise as he increased his running mileage. On discharge Stephen said that not only was he pain and stiffness-free for the first time in a long time but that he now had the knowledge and confidence to manage his back for the future. Stephen’s pain was gone within 3 sessions and he had 5 treatment sessions in total spread over about 6 weeks.