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Common Causes of Low Back Injuries

Back pain is a primary cause for sick-days in working environments and can cost employers up to $1,685 per employee every year. Unfortunately back injuries are quite common and can happen for a multitude of reasons. Fortunately, there is a effective way to treat these injuries. Take a look below to see what causes back pain and how to address these injuries.

Anatomy of the lower spine:

The low back is made up of the lumbar spine, sacrum, and coccyx. There are 5 distinct vertebrae, or bone segments, to the lumbar spine and each are held together with ligaments. Between each vertebrae is a gel like sac called the disc that helps the vertebrae to move easily on each other. Below the lumbar spine is the sacrum that is made up of multiple bony segments fused together to make one large bone sitting between your pelvis. After the sacrum is the coccyx also known as the tailbone. Around all these bones are multiple layers of muscles. These bones and muscles combine together to ultimately create movement!

Common injuries and their symptoms: 

  • Disc injuries (bulging/herniated disc)
    • Acute sharp pain at time of injury, radiating pain to the legs, numbness or tingling to the feet, and pain with forward bending
  • Lumbar strain
    • A large area of general back pain with muscle spasms
  • Lumbar facet dysfunction
    • Pain on one side of the back, difficulty bending or twisting to one side, and occasionally radiating symptoms to one leg
  • Stenosis/arthritis
    • Chronic pain widespread across the lower back, stiffness and limited mobility, occasional radiating pain to both legs, and pain improves with sitting
  • SI joint dysfunction
    • Pain with walking, feeling “uneven”, occasional sharp pain to the area

How do these injuries occur?

Injury usually occurs when the load of the movement exceeds the capacity of our bodies. For example:

  • Lifting, pushing, pulling or carrying something heavy
  • Twisting and lifting
  • Repetitive movement over a long period of time (jogging, forward bending, heavy weightlifting)

Or it may occur due to other circumstances out of our control. For example:

  • Pregnancy
  • Genetics

What can we do about it?

  • Resting and applying heat or ice to the area can provide some relief although it may be short lasting
  • At the core of most of these injuries is usually an underlying weakness. These problems can usually be addressed with a good strengthening program over time as provided by physical therapy.
    • Strengthening muscles such as the:
      • Transversus abdominis
      • Piriformis
      • Glutes
  • Injections/medications are an option for some people with chronic pain if they meet the right criteria
  • Surgery may be an option for some injuries if the situation is critical and the person meets the criteria.
    • Most of the injuries above do not meet the criteria for a surgical intervention and can be resolved with physical therapy

What will happen if it is not treated now?

Lower back injuries when left untreated can result in:

  • Further back injury
  • Leg weakness and pain
  • Inability to lift or carry
  • Inability to sit or walk for longer periods of time
  • Surgery
  • And more…

When it comes to back injuries, physical therapy is the best choice to improve symptoms such as pain and weakness and prevent injury from recurring. Avoiding physical therapy may even prolong your pain and increase your recovery time, which means more time out of work and not participating in your daily activities. Why not choose physical therapy now and let us help you RETURN TO THE THINGS YOU LOVE!

By Jenna Newton, DPT

Give us a call at, 703-450-4300 and we will get you scheduled for an evaluation with physical therapists who will treat you with an individualized program to ultimately allow you to achieve YOUR goals!

Questions on what to expect at PT? CLICK HERE for more information!

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