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Carrying a heavy purse or tote bag?

By Devin Wurman, DPT

Back pain is one of the most common complaints that patients have when they are coming to physical therapy.  It is not only affecting middle-aged adults, but becoming more prevalent in the younger adult population. Most patients that come in report dealing with the pain for at least a month or more because they believe “it will go away on its own”, however more and more people have sedentary desk jobs or are performing activities without addressing core muscle strength.  Our core muscles are extremely important in stabilizing our spines to prevent injury.

Most people have low back pain because of degeneration of the spine from wear and tear. As we age our discs in between our vertebrae get thinner, or the pathways that our spinal cord and nerves go through begin to narrow.  As a result, there is compression of the nerves which will send pain down the pathway where the nerve goes. You may then experience pain, numbness, and/or tingling in the leg.

Another cause of low back pain that we see a lot with younger patients is due to poor posture or overload of weight from carrying heavy backpacks.  This puts strain on the low back muscles and causes them to fatigue. As a result, the muscles are unable to support the spine and then cause pain.

If back pain is not addressed it is possible permanent damage may occur.  Here is a list of five signs that you should take seriously:

  • Pain radiating down your leg that progressively gets worse and/or is followed by numbness and tingling
  • Back pain with associated leg weakness on one or both sides
  • Back pain associated with an increase in balance problems
  • Pain is paired with bowl and bladder issues
  • Pain that has lasted LONGER than four weeks and is not subsiding

It is always better to be proactive with handling back pain.  If the pain is getting worse and you are unable to do any of your normal activities, you should never wait.  Physical therapists are experts on movement disorders. We can assess your pain and determine the cause. We can then prescribe the correct exercises you need based on the findings and teach you how to perform them on your own.  In addition, we can perform hands-on techniques to address soft tissue restrictions and improve spinal mobility. Finally, we can help you with your work set-up to ensure your work environment is optimal as well as teach you proper body mechanics to prevent re-injury.

CLICK HERE for more on how physical therapy can help your back problems. 

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