Common Back Problems

Disc problems, disc disease, disc prolapse (slipped disc)

Pain caused by degenerative disc disease is mainly mechanical pain, meaning it comes from the parts of the spine that move during activity: the discs, ligaments, and facet joints. Movement within the weakened structures of the spine causes them to become irritated and painful.

Pain in the center of the low back is often the first symptom patients feel. It usually starts to affect patients in their twenties and thirties. Pain tends to worsen after heavy physical activity or staying in one posture for a long time. The back may also begin to feel stiff. Resting the back eases pain. At first, symptoms only last a few days.

This type of back pain often comes and goes over the years. Doctors call this recurring back pain. Each time it strikes, the pain may seem worse than the time before. Eventually the pain may spread into the buttocks or thighs, and it may take longer for the pain to subside.

How do we diagnose the problem?

Diagnosis begins with a complete history and physical exam. When you visit JT Physiotherapy, we will ask questions about your symptoms and how your problem is affecting your daily activities. Our physiotherapists will also want to know what positions or activities make your symptoms worse or better.

Our physiotherapists will do a physical examination by checking your posture and the amount of movement in your low back. We check to see which back movements cause pain or other symptoms. Your skin sensation, muscle strength, and reflexes are also tested, when appropriate.

Some patients may be referred for a MRI scan for further diagnosis. Once your diagnostic examination is complete, we have treatment options that will help speed your recovery, so that you can more quickly return to your active lifestyle.

Non-surgical rehabilitation

Whenever possible, nonsurgical treatment of lumbar degenerative disc disease is preferred. The first goal of nonsurgical treatment is to ease pain and other symptoms so the patient can resume normal activities as soon as possible.

We never prescribe bed rest for patients with disc problems. Instead, patients are encouraged to 'potter' (reduced normal activities), using pain as a gauge for how much is too much.

After evaluating your condition, we can assign positions and exercises to ease symptoms. Our physiotherapist can design a personalised exercise program to improve flexibility of tight muscles, to strengthen the back and abdominal muscles, and to help you move safely and with less pain. Although recovery time varies among patients, as a guideline you may expect to work with our physiotherapist each week for four to six weeks. In some cases, patients may need treatment for up to 3 months (long standing symptons/back problems).

The first aim of treatment is to gain pain control (reduce pain). Our physiotherapist will work with you to find positions and movements that ease pain. We may use heat, cold, electrotherapy, manual therapy and acupuncture to calm pain and muscle spasm in conjunction with, management of pain medication.

Our physiotherapist may perform hands-on treatments such as massage and specialised forms of soft-tissue mobilisation. These can help a patient begin moving with less pain and greater ease. Traction is also a common treatment for disc problems. Traction gently stretches the low back joints and muscles. Our physiotherapist will instruct you on stretches/exercises that will help you move easier and with less pain.

As you recover, we will gradually progress your treatment. We place great importance on home exercising and self management.

An important and fundamental part of your treatment is to help you learn how to take care of your symptoms and prevent future problems.

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