Low Back Pain


80% of the population will suffer from low back pain at some time in their lives. In fact, low back pain is the second most common cause of missed work days. The good news is that understanding low back pain; how to prevent it and how to treat it, will help you avoid chronic low back pain and prevent further injury.


The lumbar spine is made up of 5 vertebrae. These are the bones of the spine. Their role is to support and protect the spinal cord. The facet joints provide a mobile link between each vertebra. Similar to other joints, they can wear down and become irritated. Intervertebral discs sit between each vertebra. The disc is made up of 2 parts: annulus(outer ring) and nucleus pulpous(center). The disc’s main function is shock absorption. The spinal cord gives out nerve roots at each level of the spine. The nerve roots are responsible for carrying information between the brain and the lower extremity.


Low back pain can be divided into 2 categories:

  1. Mechanical low back pain
  2. Compressive or Neurogenic low back pain

Mechanical Low Back Pain:
Inflammation of the facet joints, discs, ligaments or muscles of the low back cause mechanical low back pain. This is a result of strain, overuse or trauma. Mechanical low back pain is usually felt in the low back and may spread down to the buttock or thigh.

Compressive Or Neurogenic Low Back Pain:
Compressive or neurogenic low back pain is caused by irritation or "pinching" of the nerve root. The nerve root can be compressed by a disc or bony spur. Since the nerve root carries information between the brain and lower extremity, there can be an interference in muscle strength and reflexes. Pain and\or numbness can extend below the knee and into the foot.


Depending on the extent of your injury, your doctor may order certain tests. Here are a few:


  • Show bones of the lumbar spine
  • May show degenerative changes
  • Do not show most soft tissue structures
  • Usually the starting point for tests

CAT Scan (Computer Assisted Tomography):

  • X-ray slices or cuts taken at specific levels which are computer enhanced
  • Allows you to view bones and soft tissue
  • Used to clearly define complicated bone injury
  • Sometimes used with myelogram(injection of dye into spinal sac) to better show pressure onto spinal nerves

MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging)

  • Uses magnetic waves to obtain images of bone and soft tissue
  • Shows nerves and discs very clearly

EMG (Electromyogram)

  • Tests the nerve roots
  • Consists of inserting tiny electrodes into different muscle groups
  • Can determine the condition of the nerve that supplies those muscle groups
Will Physiotherapy Help Me?

Your physiotherapist will take your detailed medical history. Then he or she will conduct a thorough physical examination, testing the quality and quantity of your lumbar movement and strength, and perform a neurological scan including reflexes, key muscle and sensation testing.

Your physiotherapist will explain the findings of the examination with you and design an appropriate treatment plan for you. Depending on your condition, your treatment plan may include:

  • Manual therapy to improve movement
  • Electro modalities to decrease pain and promote healing
  • Hot or cold therapy
  • Stretching exercises
  • Strengthening exercises
  • Education on mechanics, posture and injury prevention

To learn more about how you can access and benefit from our services, please contact us today!

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