Identifying Low Back Pain Causes…an Exercise in Futility for Most

Identifying the cause of your low back pain is usually difficult, but physical therapy is a universal solution to address most cases

When it comes to low back pain, there is an abundance of alarming statistics available that can help put the massive size of the problem in perspective. Here are a few key examples:

  • Low back pain is currently the number one cause of disability in the world
  • Every year, about 37% of the world’s population will experience low back pain
  • At any given point in time, about 540 million people are affected by low back pain globally
  • The amount of years of disability caused by low back pain since 1990 has increased by 54%

No One is Really Immune to Lower Back Pain

Research has also suggested that very few people are completely immune to the impact of low back pain. The number of individuals affected by it is actually highest in high-income countries, but rates are rapidly increasing in low- and middle-income countries throughout Asia, Africa and the Middle East as well. And although low back pain is more common in women and older individuals than in other groups, it can affect just about anyone of any age. In fact, one study showed that 40% of 9-18-year olds throughout the world report having had low back pain.

But despite the incredibly high number of people with low back pain and all that’s known about it, this next fact may surprise you more than anything else: in the vast majority of patients, the actual cause of the pain cannot be identified. In some patients, problems like spine fractures, inflammation disorders, infection and cancer may be responsible, but for everyone else, the cause is not known, and they are classified as having “nonspecific low back pain.”

Additional Factors that Impact the Perception of Back Pain

For these individuals, there are several factors that might play a part in the development of their low back pain. These include:

  • Psychological factors like depression and anxiety,
  • Social factors like income and education levels, and
  • Inherited genetic factors.

People with chronic conditions like:

  • Asthma,
  • Headaches,
  • Diabetes,
  • Smokers, and
  • Individuals with Previous Episodes of Back Pain…

…are also more likely to experience low back pain than those who are in good health.

This may sound overwhelming and perhaps even dampen your spirits if you’re currently dealing with low back pain, but as physical therapists, we’d like you to know that the cause of your pain is not as important as you may think. Many people get hung up on the specific diagnosis of their pain and go on to have tests to determine the source of their problem. But as you can see, getting an accurate diagnosis is rare, and these tests may lead to unnecessary treatments like surgery for some.

Don’t Focus on the Cause of Lower Back Pain When It Can Rarely be Determined

Rather than focusing too much time on the diagnosis, physical therapy concentrates on addressing the problem starting with your very first session. Throughout movement-based therapies and exercises individualized according to your abilities and goals, we will work with you on a one-on-one basis and target your pain from many angles. We believe that movement is a key ingredient for reducing low back pain, and this is why we promote a more active lifestyle along with your treatment program from the get-go.

Current research is continuing to support physical therapy as an effective means to alleviate back pain, no matter the cause. In one recent study that reviewed current guidelines on the best treatments for low back pain, researchers recommended the following:

For many patients with nonspecific low back pain, simple first line care (advice, reassurance and self-management) and a review at 1-2 weeks is all that is required. If patients need second line care, non-pharmacological treatments like physical therapy should be tried before pharmacological therapies.

So if you’re dealing with low back pain, don’t waste your time worrying about what might be causing it. Instead, take action and see your physical therapist now for an evaluation and treatment plan that will address your issues and get you back to moving pain-free once again.

Take-home Messages:

  1. The cause of lower back pain can rarely be determined.
  2. 99% of lower back pain does NOT require surgery.
  3. YOUR BACK IS STRONG, RESILIENT, FLEXIBLE, AND STABLE
  4. The faster you start physical therapy, the better your outcome in almost all cases.

What are you waiting for?  The clinical research is clear and our expert clinicians here in Visalia and Hanford are ready to help.

Contact us today.