The Down Low on Your Low Back


 What is low back pain?

As the name suggests, low back pain is an ache or discomfort in the lower part (lumbar region) of the spine. Low back pain is characterized by a range of signs and symptoms including: pain, muscle stiffness, tension, tenderness, and decreased range of motion. Individuals may also experience weakness in the legs or feet and possibly tingling sensation traveling down the legs.  Back pain is considered acute when symptoms last 6 weeks or less and chronic when symptoms last longer than 3 months. Symptoms can vary with intensity and can significantly impact normal activities of daily living, social life and work.


What structures make up the lower back?

The lower back consists of 5 bones called the lumbar vertebrae. These vertebrae support the body and protect the spinal cord and nerves. Between each vertebra are spongy pads of cartilage called intervertebral discs. These discs provide shock absorption and allow for flexibility in the lower back. Bands of tissue called ligaments attach the vertebrae to one another and hold them in place. Tendons attach muscles to the vertebrae.

Who develops low back pain?

Low back pain is one of the most common chronic conditions in Canada. It is estimated that 4 out of 5 adults will experience at least one episode of back pain during their lives.  Back pain most often occurs between the ages of 30 and 50 but can affect any person at any age.

What causes low back pain?

There are numerous causes for low back pain.  However, the exact cause is only discovered in 12-15% of patients.  Some of the most common causes of back pain include:

  • Muscle or ligament strains
  • Disc problem: the cushion between the bones of the spine can bulge out of place, herniate or rupture. Discs also wear down with time as we age.
  • Arthritis: vertebral joints can be affected by arthritis, which causes degeneration and inflammation within the joint
  • Muscle weakness: weakness of deep abdominal muscles can increase strain on the lower back

 What are the risk factors for low back pain?

Lack of exercise, obesity, smoking, pregnancy, older age and prior back injury all increase your risk for developing low back pain. In addition, certain activities such as lifting, bending or twisting and  standing or sitting for prolonged periods of time predispose you to back injury.

 What can I do to help prevent low back pain?

  • Begin a safe exercise program with advice of a health care professional
  • Maintain a healthy weight
  • Practice good posture
  • Avoid sitting or standing in one position for long periods of time
  • When lifting, hold object close to your body, keep your back straight and bend at the needs
  • Avoid twisting your body when lifting
  • Wear supportive footwear
  • If you smoke, quit

How Can Physiotherapy Help?

Physiotherapists are trained to assess and treat low back pain. Depending on the client’s goals, symptoms, and cause of pain, various treatment techniques can be used. These include: advice on early activity, joint mobilization, strengthening, stretching and stabilization exercises, ergonomic and postural advice, pain relief techniques and soft tissue work.

If you or someone you know is experiencing low back pain, please contact Kinetic Physiotherapy by phone at 905-637-1414 or email: Let us help you decrease pain, prevent further injury and return you to the life you want to live.


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