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Common Conditions Related to Back Pain

Man doing virtual physical therapy

What is degenerative disc disease (DDD) in the lumbar spine (back)?

DDD is a natural aging process where the discs between our vertebrae begin to lose height. In our lumbar spine we have five intervertebral discs composed of an outer layer of woven cartilage and an inner gel-like substance which creates cushioning between the bones. These discs go through a rehydration process as we sleep, but as we age the rehydration process becomes impaired. This affects movement between the joints and causes reduced nerve mobility. But, not all individuals with DDD have symptoms and it is common to see these disc changes with aging on imaging. Fortunately, a CityPT physical therapist can perform an individualized evaluation and aid you in finding the correct exercises to help improve your function. The preferred treatment method for individuals with chronic low back pain as a result of disc degeneration is conservative management with physical therapy.

What is a herniated disc in the lumbar spine (back)?

A herniated disc is an extrusion of disc material from its normal anatomical position between the bony structures of the spine. Our discs are composed of an outer layer of woven cartilage and an inner gel-like substance which creates cushioning between the bones. This is a common cause of back pain and people typically describe their symptoms as burning pain which can also go down into the leg. It is very common to see disc herniations on MRIs even in people with no symptoms. How do you heal a disc herniation naturally? CityPT physical therapists are well versed in the appropriate exercises to help heal and reduce disc herniations as well as mobilize irritated nerve tissues to help you get back to work, life and doing the things you love.

What is low back pain?

Low back pain (LBP) is an extremely common reason people seek medical care and is also a frequent reason for missed time at work. Low back pain affects people of all age groups and can occur acutely or chronically. This is defined as pain between the lower border of the ribs and the buttock region that does not radiate down the legs. Low back pain can be caused from a variety of reasons including: muscle spasm, muscle strain, disc pathology, and joint conditions. Fortunately, CityPT physical therapists can significantly decrease LBP and the recurrence of LBP. Your therapist will listen to your history and current condition to find the root cause of the problem and address the pain with appropriate exercise, good nutrition, and optimal body mechanics.

What is spinal stenosis in the lumbar spine (back)?

Lumbar spinal stenosis is a narrowing of the vertebra's canal of the spine where nerves, arteries, and veins pass through. There are different canals in the vertebrae that can become narrowed, therefore there are actually three main types of stenosis. Spinal stenosis typically is related to aging and impacts people 50 years and older. It is common to feel an increase in tingling/numbness/pain down one or both legs with standing and walking activities and an improvement in symptoms when leaning forward (pushing a shopping cart or climbing stairs), sitting or laying down. This condition is a common reason people seek surgery due to pain, risk of falls, depression, and reduced function but can be treated conservatively by a CityPT physical therapist. Research shows that physical therapy is a great first line of treatment, can allow people to avoid spinal surgery, and delivers similar outcomes to surgery. Getting therapy first reduces healthcare dollars spent, missed time at work, recovery time, surgical complications, and can allow you to return to your optimal function.

What is osteoarthritis in the lumbar spine (back)?

Osteoarthritis is defined as the wearing away of cartilage between the surfaces of joints which affects joint movement. This is common in many joints in the body and is considered a normal aging process. Arthritis is common in the neck, back, hips, knees, and hands which causes pain, stiffness, swelling and loss of motion. While physical therapy cannot stop the development of arthritis, your therapist can significantly impact your symptoms by helping you develop a regular cardiovascular, mobility, and strengthening routine. The pain and inflammation felt from arthritis is substantially impacted by a tailored exercise approach.

What is sciatica?

Sciatica is numbness/tingling, and pain felt down the leg in the area supplied by the sciatic nerve root. Many individuals commonly mistake any pain down the leg as sciatica. When parts of the sciatic nerve become compressed or bound down this typically results in tingling/numbness/pain down the back of the leg and into the foot and toes. A common location for the sciatic nerve to become compressed is at the piriformis muscle. Your symptoms should be assessed by a CityPT physical therapist to receive proper treatment and determine the true cause of your radiating pain or weakness to decide the proper course of treatment. Your therapist will prescribe you with ergonomic/body mechanic training, nerve mobility exercises, core stabilization, and appropriate mobility drills to get you back to work, daily activities, and the hobbies you enjoy.

What is a muscle strain in the back?

A muscle strain in the lumbar spine is the irritation to the tendons, which connect muscle to bone, in the lower back. This can be caused by poor body mechanics when a muscle becomes overly stretched and then has a load placed upon it. This is why proper body mechanics are so important with lifting, bending, sitting, and sleeping. A muscle strain can lead to muscle spasm and trigger points within the muscle which reduce muscle strength and flexibility. CityPT physical therapists are experts at treating this acute condition and providing the proper knowledge to prevent future muscle strain.

What are trigger points in the back?

Trigger points are palpable, localized, irritable areas within muscle fibers. Trigger points are a common cause of low back pain and can be caused by poor body mechanics, muscle overuse, poor posture, poor sleeping positions, and even anxiety/depression. Trigger points are known to not only produce pain where they are located, but they can also cause pain in different areas of the body. Physical therapy can eliminate the cause(s) of your trigger points by listening to your current condition and history to provide you with an individualized treatment plan that will get you back to doing what you enjoy.