What is Physiotherapy?
Physiotherapy is a treatment to restore a patient’s mobility through programmes of bodily movement and exercise. It focuses on the scientific principles of motion and helps people to restore, maintain and maximise their physical strength, function, mobility and overall well-being by addressing underlying anatomical issues.
Physiotherapy for back pain
Physical therapy and exercise has been shown to be very effective at relieving low back pain and preventing it from returning. Studies have shown that physiotherapy can prevent relapse in as many as one third of cases of recurring acute lower back pain. Amr Shawket Abdeen, physiotherapist at Emirates Specialty Hospital said, “In the past, people with lower back pain were often advised to rest. But prolonged rest can weaken your back muscles and make the pain worse. It can also lead to other health problems. So nowadays people with lower back pain are most likely to hear that they need to get more exercise.”
Jamie Scanlon, Senior Physiotherapist at Mediclinic Dubai Mall said “When discomfort is felt in the back it is often disproportionately painful and patients will often think the worst because it is commonly viewed as an important structure. However, most of the time it is a non-life threatening problem. The internet also has lots of worrying information about lower back pain and what the causes may be. Physiotherapists can help reassure patients and offer expert advice on what treatments might be effective for the individual.”
When should one visit a physiotherapist for low back pain?
It is advised that if the patient experiences the pain for more than 3 weeks, or if they are getting frequent recurrences of low back pain, physiotherapy is often beneficial.
Common causes of lower back pain
Some of the common causes that contribute to back pain are physiological: being generally tired or run down, Vitamin D deficiency, previous injuries; psychological issues including depression, anxiety, stress, fear of movement; and lifestyle related factors such as sleep deprivation, low levels of physical activity, being overweight and smoking.
Charlotte Banger, senior physiotherapist and head of physiotherapy at Mediclinic Parkview Hospital explained a few other common causes which include sprains, strains and spinal nerve compression, "Other common causes of back pain are sprains and strains, where an awkward movement has pulled a muscle or sprained a ligament, spinal nerve compression, when a spinal nerve root is compressed, entrapped, or pinched, lumbar herniated or bulging disc, where the contents of the disc spill out and compress a spinal nerve root and may cause back pain, with or without leg pain and degenerative disc disease, whch are age-related spine problems that help describe the changes spinal components undergo as a result of growing older.”
Physiotherapy treatments for back pain
While lower back pain treatment will vary depending on your specific diagnosis, your physiotherapist may focus on decreasing pain with either passive or active therapy. Examples of passive physical therapy include manual therapies, heat/ice packs, electrical stimulation, including TENS (transcutaneous electric nerve stimulation), ultrasound, dry needling and cupping.
For most low back pain treatments, active exercise is the focus of the physical therapy program where it focuses on muscle strength and conditioning. Examples of active physical therapy include movement based activities, including stretching and range of motion exercises, specific strengthening exercises.
In most cases, passive modalities should be used in conjunction with active physical therapy. Modalities can be utilised early in the course of physical therapy care to help control pain.
Deepa Chandran, head of the physiotherapy department at Prime Healthcare Group said, “The main focus of the treatment is to decrease or eliminate pain and get back to full activity. Treatment is given on basis of symptoms-evidence based treatment. As per the diagnosis the treatment is tailored by the therapists."
Advantages and disadvantages of physiotherapy for low back pain
Dr. Ajith Jose, Orthopaedics-Specialist, Aster Hospital, Qusais said, “Physiotherapy helps the patient to get over the pain episode faster. It also helps to prevent further pain attacks by teaching the patient about exercise protocols and posture correction. Physiotherapy may aggravate pain if not done with proper instruction. Over exercising can also cause pain.”
Home exercises for treating low back pain
Recommended home exercises differ from person to person depending on their back pain intensity and body flexibility levels. It is advised that the exercises should be performed under expert- supervision initially to ensure they are being performed correctly. Some of the most effective home-exercises include abdominal crunches, alternate leg lifts, bridging, spine curls, back leg lifts and back arches are exercises which can be done at home. Hamstring stretching exercises can help reach the radiating pain better.
Jamie Scanlon of Mediclinic Dubai Mall said, “Being active for an hour every day can reverse the negative effects of this. Walking, running, cycling, swimming, yoga and pilates all have similar effects for low back pain.
Dr. Kirti Mohan Marya of Aster Specialist Clinic for Orthopaedics and Physiotherapy, Al Qusais said, “McKenize exercises, planks, core stabilisation and stretches can all be done at home safely once demonstrated correctly by a trained therapist.”
Omar Moustafa, head of the physiotherapy department at Canadian Specialist Hospital said, “my advice is always to do what makes you feel good according to your background, so not only will your low back benefit from it, but also your mood. If somebody likes to play tennis then that will definitely be the goal to be reached."
Prevention is better than cure. While there are no guarantees, it is well known that active individuals who regularly exercise to maintain normal flexibility and muscle strength to support their spine have the best chance of avoiding lower back pain.