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Low Back Pain
Christmas is over. You’ve worked for hours and hours taking down the stockings, cleaning up all the tinsel, packing the ornaments and nativity and vacuuming up pine needles. The lights on the house and the tree gave a good fight, and nearly had you hog-tied. But, at last you conquered them by hastily shoving them into a box, dreading the mess of tangled cords and brightly colored bulbs you will have to deal with 11 months from now. Everything has been neatly packed (…or maybe not so neatly…) into boxes and you’ve spent the last 28 minutes lifting and carrying and stacking—putting all the totems of Christmas magic into storage. Fatigue has already set in as you bend down to pick up the last box of Christmas decorations. And just as you begin to lift, you feel a searing pain in your low back that nearly drops you to your knees.

Low Back Pain

Low back pain is one of the most common injuries affecting 80% of adults at some point during their life. It can come from a new or recent injury so painful it causes you to miss work or it could be from an old and reoccurring injury that has plagued you for many years.


Onset of back pain can begin with any number of reasons or movements. Your pain could’ve started with bending or lifting like the story above. A few other at-risk activities are prolonged poor posture, pregnancy, or sports including football, golf, gymnastics, and swimming.

Diagnoses and Symptoms

Low back pain can be related to:

  • Muscles and ligaments injuries like sprains and strains.
  • Nerve-related pain like sciatica and radicular pain.
  • Pain from repeated movement and joint dysfunctions including herniated disc, facet joint dysfunction and sacroiliac joint dysfunction.
  • Posture-related pain like scoliosis, compression fracture, and excessive lumbar curvature.
  • Age and wear-and-tear related pain like osteoarthritis, spinal stenosis, and degenerative disc disease.
  • Trauma related pain like fractures.


Low back pain symptoms can vary greatly depending on the mode of injury, the acuity and

the affected tissues. Symptoms can range from dull and aching, sharp and stabbing or numbness, tingling and pain radiating down one or both legs. Depending on the injury, it may be painful to bend forward or sit for long periods. Or it might be more painful to stand or lean backwards.

No matter what symptoms you may be feeling, low back pain can be debilitating and interrupt the normal flow of life, preventing you from being able to do the activities you enjoy.


Physical Therapy Can Help

Your physical therapist is a movement specialist trained to evaluate and diagnose your musculoskeletal injury and will collaborate with you to decide the best course of treatment.


Some of the treatment options and tools your therapist might use include:

  • Mobilization and Manipulation of facet joints helps to improve movement at specific segments of the spine.
  • Soft tissue massage and myofascial release to injured or aggravated muscle groups is used to decrease tension and increase blood flow, reduce swelling, and break up scar tissue.
  • Modalities including electrical stimulation, ultrasound and trigger point dry needling are used to aid in increasing blood flow to injured areas, decrease tension and pain modulation.
  • Exercise instruction and monitoring in the clinic as well a Home Exercise Program tailored to you. These exercises will focus on mobility and flexibility of the lumbar spine and hips and strengthening of key muscle groups including the glutes and abdominals. The goal of these exercises is to build strength in the core muscle groups to protect the lumbar spine and develop a routine and habit of exercise to improve your resiliency.
  • Instruction in activity performance to prevent re-injury. These activities may include lifting and carrying, proper posture, or more specific tasks related to work or recreational activities.

Jacob Stratton, PT, DPT