Up to 80% of Australians will experience a significant episode of back pain at some stage in their lives, with a number of these going on to suffer recurrent pain and functional limitations due to their injury. As physiotherapists we are trained to properly assess and treat spinal pain, including headaches, utilising techniques such as:
Our aim as physiotherapists is to educate you on your injury, perform the necessary “hands-on” techniques to expedite your recovery and formulate an appropriate home exercise program for both the short and long term management of your injury.
There are a number of different structures that can be injured when it comes to spinal pain. These include:
Facet joint: these are the small joints in our spine that control the direction of movement at each specific level of our spine. Just like our knee or ankle, these joints can be stiff (hypomobile), loose (hypermobile) or be injured if taken beyond their natural limit and pain can result. These joints are also susceptible to all forms of arthritis, e.g.”wear and tear” arthritis (osteoarthritis) and inflammatory arthritis (rheumatoid arthritis).
Discs: these are our spines cushioning system and consist of a cartilage outer rim, with a gel-like substance in the middle. Through sudden or repetitive trauma this gel can start pushing through the outer wall of the disc (bulge) or even rupture the outer wall (prolapse).
Nerves: these are our message pathways and branch off our spinal cord to exit at every level of our spine. If the nerve becomes impeded while escaping the spine, e.g. disc bulge or bony spur, it can become inflamed and pain can felt anywhere down the distribution of that nerve. The term “sciatica” is a diagnosis given to pain that is felt anywhere down the distribution of the sciatic nerve.
Muscles: these provide our spine with movement, but equally important they provide our spine with stability. Acute muscle “strains” are less frequent in the spine, however muscles will often tighten or “spasm” as a protective mechanism in response to injury, which can result in muscle fatigue and soreness.
With a growing number of our workforce performing sedentary roles, one common reason for spinal pain is the postural stresses we place on our spines everyday.
Another common cause of back pain is lifting and it is important to recognise and practice safe manual handling principles to minimise your risk of injury. Assuming you have cleared the area of any trip hazards or clutter, when preparing to perform a lift there are five easy principles to consider: