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Back Pain? What Back Pain?

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Back Pain? What Back Pain?

Have you accidentally tweaked your back whilst picking up firewood this winter? Did you hurt your back playing rugby this season? Has that elbow in the back from netball left you walking around like a zombie?

Ladies and gents, back pain is more common than you think.  Up to 80% of people will suffer low back pain sometime in their life (1).   Goodness gracious, isn’t that a big percentage you may ask. Yes, it is big, but not to worry, over 90% of people recover completely from low back pain (2).

Well, in order to understand this, we first need to understand the anatomy of the spine. It consists of multiple units of bones called vertebrae, held together by discs and joints. These move together as one, not unlike a snake. The spine is an extremely strong and well-designed structure that due to its construction can compensate for many issues while keeping you moving.

The spine is the centre of all movement, from which a majority of your large muscles originate, this drives all of your basic movements such as bending, twisting and walking. An issue with the back can thus make these movements difficult and can be quite disabling.

There are many types of back pain and injury, all of which present slightly differently. As physiotherapists we are trained in not only the diagnosis of this, but also in the management, with the main goal being to get you back to life as fast as possible and teaching you how to self-manage in limiting the likelihood of further episodes.

It is not uncommon to have back pain which radiates down your leg.  This occurs when the nerves from your spinal cord are pinched as they come out from your spine.  This is known as sciatica.   Sciatica is when you start having pain that may radiate down from your back and into your leg, or surprisingly sometimes it can start as a leg pain that radiates up to your back.

In the common acute back sprain, you may notice the following signs and symptoms:

  • Pain when bending forwards and/or backwards?
  • Pain when twisting your trunk?
  • Feeling stiff in the morning and worse as the day goes?
  • Pain when twisting and turning at night? 

Well if any of those sounds a little too familiar, here is some advice for you!

  • KEEP MOVING. Yes, you may be sore, but keep moving.
  • Sitting is a big no-no, as it loads the spine more than standing or lying.   Move around and avoid sitting where possible.
  • Avoid movements that reproduce your pain.  Avoid moving into painful ranges, work with what you can.

In the ideal world, you will have a physiotherapist’s number in your mobile phone.  However, this isn’t the ideal world.  So, look out for your local Motus clinic, and we will assist you in the management of your back pain.  We have lots of treatment options and will work together to find the best one for you.

  1. Balaque F, Mannion AF, Pellise F & Cedraschi C (2012) Nonspecific low back pain. Lancet 379 (9814); 482-491.
  2. McGuirk B, King W, Govind J, et al. (2001) Safety, efficacy, and cost effectiveness of evidence-based guidelines for the management of acute low back pain in primary care. Spine 26 (23); 2615-22.



Dan Wong – Physiotherapist at Motus Timaru.  Dan recently graduated from Otago University and is enjoying utilizing his physiotherapy skills to assist the Timaru community.  

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