Chandler physical therapy expert Jennifer DeBoer, PT, DPT, is here to give us information on chronic low back pain and how to diagnose, treat and improve this condition.
Chronic low back pain is a common condition that affects a large sector of our population. There are many different causes of chronic low back pain so it can be difficult to determine what the source of a patient’s back pain may be; but in most cases it can be corrected.
As a physical therapist, I analyze patients’ strength and stability deficits, mobility measurements, and their activity limitations to help determine the best course of treatment for them. When diagnosing a patient’s pain, I use the Clinical Practice Guidelines (CPG) for Low Back Pain published by the Orthopedic Section of the American Physical Therapy Association (APTA). These medical guidelines for chronic low back pain help me understand a patient’s back pain more clearly.
Many of my patients who experience low back pain often lack proper stability of the spine. This is called movement coordination impairment, which is when the instability of the spine, or the inability to coordinate the muscles that stabilize the spine, cause the body to compensate. This results in the tightening of the muscles in the upper back or through the pelvis and hip regions, causing acute pain.
Another common symptom that often accompanies lower back pain is pain down the leg. This could be the result of a pinched, or compressed, nerve. Physical therapists attribute this pain to a lack of properly activating transverse abdominis and multifidus muscles in the lower abdomen, which provide effective trunk support. This lack of strength can lead to overcompensation by the lower back musculature, which do not have the endurance to offer proper spinal support, and can lead to nerve compression and low back pain.
One way a physical therapist might choose to treat this impairment is through the promotion of the deep stabilizing muscles. This is an intervention that has been widely researched and discussed in physical therapy literature and is a common approach for treatment of low back pain.
The intervention involves the training and strengthening of the transverse abdominis and multifidus muscles. The first step involves teaching a patient how to consciously use these muscles. Once the patient is capable of activating their muscles, they can begin strengthening them to improve motor learning and coordination. Through use of functional movement exercises, patients can decrease their lower back pain with daily prescribed exercises.
At Foothills Sports Medicine, we believe in evidence-based practice and we are always looking for the most efficient ways to get our patient’s back to what they love to do. We achieve this by staying up-to-date with current research, discoursing with other clinicians, and using our own clinical experience. Lower back pain is something many people will experience in their lives and we believe it is important for us to stay educated on the topic.
Our physical therapy experts at Foothills Sports Medicine Physical Therapy know how to help improve your chronic pain. If you have questions about chronic low back pain or any muscle discomfort, make an appointment today for your physical therapy consultation! To learn more about our fantastic team of Chandler physical therapy experts, check out the Foothills blog.
Image courtesy of Giulia Marotta