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Doing Just Spine: Finding Lower Back Pain Relief

Posted by Douglas W. Stoddard MD, M Sp Med, Dip Sport Med, ES on 15 May 2018
Doing Just Spine: Finding Lower Back Pain Relief

Low back pain affects almost everyone, regardless of how old you are. Over the years, lower back pain has become one of the leading causes of disability worldwide1.

A large part of this is that there are many causes that may be contributing to low back pain such as natural age-related stiffness in the spine (e.g. degenerative disc disease), irritation or weakened components of the spine due to improper movement or posture (e.g. disc bulge), structural changes that you may have been born with or pre-disposed to early on in your life (e.g. spondylosis), or simply a local muscle strain from bending over to pick up that suitcase the wrong way 2. Many of these conditions can be managed with exercise, manual therapy, and learning strategies for lower back pain relief.

However, too often there are times where imaging or clinical testing may not explain what is causing your symptoms. These unexplained cases are referred to as non-specific back pain, where there is no known cause or source - these make up about 90% of those with low back pain3. But don't fear, this doesn't mean you can't find lower back pain relief!

So what can we do about lower back pain?

Recent literature has reviewed several low-back pain guidelines and found out what is the best approach to improving your back pain4:

  • Don't lay in bed, keep moving!

What happens when we don't move? Our muscles shut off and become weak, supporting ligaments of the spine become stiff and more prone to future injury, structures in the spine start to lack nutrition and circulation - so fight off the temptation to lay in bed to recover and stay active.

  • Seek guidance from a physiotherapist

Physiotherapists are specially trained to assess and treat movement dysfunction, and depending on who you visit, many will carry an arsenal of skills and enhanced knowledge that can help you find lower back pain relief through manual therapy and exercise prescription. Physiotherapists are also well educated in understanding pain science and can help you establish control over your pain and get you back to moving!

  • Therapeutic exercise over surgical interventions

Evidence strongly suggests that a personalized exercise program best supports recovery5. Such a program may consist of aerobic fitness, movement re-education, strengthening, postural control and stretching. Discuss with your physiotherapist your goals together and create your own personal exercise program so you can bounce back in no time.

  • Don't be afraid to try new things.

Pain is a complex concept. Conventional thinking used to believe pain to be directly related to tissue damage, but we've learned that this is not entirely true. Pain is an experience and can be easily influenced by multiple things such as genetics, stress, environment, and many others2. Given this understanding, sometimes a physical approach to improving pain is not enough6. Therefore, being open to trying new methods such as cognitive-behavioural strategies (ie. stress reduction), acupuncture, yoga or massage can help you get back to moving without worry.

Low back pain is not something you just have to put up with reach out to your healthcare team at SEMI. We are here to listen to you and get you back to enjoying the finer things in life. Book an appointment online at one of our Toronto physiotherapy clinics today!


1 - Buchbinder, R., van Tulder, M., Öberg, B., Costa, L., Woolf, A., & Schoene, M. et al. (2018). Low back pain: a call for action. The Lancet. doi: 10.1016/s0140-6736(18)30488-4
2 - Hartvigsen, J., Hancock, M., Kongsted, A., Louw, Q., Ferreira, M., & Genevay, S. et al. (2018). What low back pain is and why we need to pay attention.
3 - Koes, B., van Tulder, M., & Thomas, S. (2006). Diagnosis and treatment of low back pain. BMJ, 332(7555), 1430-1434. doi: 10.1136/bmj.332.7555.1430
4 - Foster, N., Anema, J., Cherkin, D., Chou, R., Cohen, S., & Gross, D. et al. (2018). Prevention and treatment of low back pain: evidence, challenges, and promising directions.
5 - Chou, R., Qaseem, A., Snow, V., Casey, D., Cross, J., Shekelle, P., & Owens, D. (2007). Diagnosis and Treatment of Low Back Pain: A Joint Clinical Practice Guideline from the American College of Physicians and the American Pain Society. Annals Of Internal Medicine, 147(7), 478. doi: 10.7326/0003-4819-147-7-200710020-00006
6 - Müller-Schwefe, G., Morlion, B., Ahlbeck, K., Alon, E., Coaccioli, S., & Coluzzi, F. et al. (2017). Treatment for chronic low back pain: the focus should change to multimodal management that reflects the underlying pain mechanisms. Current Medical Research And Opinion, 33(7), 1199-1210. doi: 10.1080/03007995.2017.1298521

Author: Douglas W. Stoddard MD, M Sp Med, Dip Sport Med, ES
About: Dr. Douglas Stoddard is a sports medicine physician and is the Medical Director of the Sports & Exercise Medicine Institute (SEMI). After receiving his medical degree from the University of Toronto, he trained in Australia at the Australian Institute of Sport in Canberra, obtaining his Master Degree in Sports Medicine. He is also a diplomat of the Canadian Academy of Sport and Exercise Medicine and has his focussed practice designation in Sport Medicine from the Ontario Medical Association. Dr. Stoddard is a consultant to the Canadian Military and has consulted with well over 30,000 unique patients in his career. Dr. Stoddard is constantly searching for new and promising therapies to help SEMI patients, and is responsible for developing the RegenerVate Medical Injection Therapy Program. He is married and the proud father of two boys, is an avid triathlete and occasional guitar player.
Tags: Lower body Treatment options


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