4 part series on low back pain – Part 4A: Typical treatment options

Now that you are reading the final part to this series, you are becoming an expert on low back pain! Keep reading to learn about how to treat and manage your back pain. Treatment posts include:

  • Part A: Typical treatments options and when to see a doctor
  • Part B: What to watch out for when seeking treatment
  • Part C: The ultimate answer for managing low back pain


PART 4A – What are the most typical treatment options you can pursue? What do you expect to get out of these treatments? 

  1. Physio
    • Your physiotherapist will assess your spine and identify the main issues contributing to your pain. They will work out where you are:
      • Tight. Your physio will then help improve your movement by various manual therapy techniques including massage, joint mobilisations, muscle energy techniques and potentially dry needling. You will be given stretches to work on between treatments to help maintain and improve your movement.
      • Weak. After having back pain, your physio will give you exercises to help you activate your deep core (see previous blog post titled ‘the core essence of running’ to learn more about the core) as well as strengthen other muscles such as your buttock muscles that may also be weak.
    • Your physio will also give you advice on:
      • what exercise you can do while you have back pain. Exercise like swimming is particularly good for you if you are suffering from low back pain. If you don’t want to do freestyle, try walking in the pool. You will feel surprisingly good afterwards!
      • When you can return to your normal exercise regime and if this should be modified. 
      • Posture, posture, posture. You really need to get cracking on improving how you sit, stand and move. Learn how to get those core muscles switching on in functional position
  2. Massage
    • Massage therapy can be helpful at easing tension and improving movement.
  3.  Acupuncture
    • Is a form of alternative medicine that you can certainly try. Some people really like it and find it helpful. Acupuncture is holistic and seeks to improve the flow of energy in your meridians. (NB Acupuncture is very different to what a physio offers with dry needling. Dry needling targets trigger points, not meridians).
  4. Chiropractic
    • Is a form of alternative medicine that emphasizes treatment of the musculoskeletal system under the belief that mechanical disorders affect general health via the nervous system. The main chiropractic treatment technique involves manual therapy, especially manipulation of the spine.



What’s up doc?

Knowing when to see a doctor over one of the practitioners listed above can be tricky. You definitely need to see your GP if your pain:

  • is severe
  • is worsening
  • is worse at night and stops you from sleeping
  • if you have any rapid weight loss or weight gain
  • is radiating down your leg and past your knee

Your GP can prescribe medications to help improve your pain. If you have a very acute bout of low back pain, the best thing you can do is get onto the right medication and rest in bed for a few days. Going for a massage or to physio when you are in debilitating and severe pain, wont help! The medication at this stage is the most important.

Be careful as to what investigations you are told to get. Typically, an Xray and MRI is ordered. Note that CT scans are very high dose radiation and should only be done if absolutely necessary.

If you need further medical attention, I couldn’t more highly recommend the use of specialist doctors such as Sports Physicians. These doctors are the most highly qualified to clarify the diagnosis, organize appropriate investigations and provide you with details on medical options for your pain, such as corticosteroid injections. 


Keep an eye out for our next post for this series, part 4B: what to watch out for with seeking treatment. 


About Physiotonic

Physiotonic are expert Sports Physiotherapists who run group exercise classes. We focus specifically on buttock muscle strengthening, deep core activation and flexibility. This will help you improve your posture. We specialise in helping runners to improve their running technique and running efficiency. The Physiotonic blog has posts on all sorts of health and fitness tips to help get you on your way!

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