Most people who have experienced low back pain (LBP) have no idea where the pain is coming from. People will say they “threw their back out”(huh?), or they have a “slipped disk” (no such thing), but really have no idea what is causing the pain. In the vast majority of cases (80-90%), LBP is due to muscle spasms. While there are several other causes of LBP, such as neurological, infection, and fracture, muscle spasms are by far the most common. This is why that even though back pain is extremely common, surgery often fails to relieve it.  Even Mayo Clinic considers back surgery “rarely necessary”.

If muscle spasms are the most common source of LBP, why is LBP such a persistent and disabling condition? Because treatment usually focuses on pain, and not the source of the pain.

And treating the pain, instead of the source of pain, generally leads to poor results.  LBP is the leading cause of chronic pain in America. There has been an alarming increase over the past 20 years of back pain patients who are addicted to pain meds. Columbia University researchers found that opioid addiction had tripled over a 10-year period. Opioid overdoses now kill more people than cocaine or heroin.

While pain meds can help people get out of bed and exercise, most people use pain meds to help them continue with their normal activities….and many times it is this normal activity that is causing/contributing to the LBP.

If we focus on finding and treating the source of pain, we can speed up recovery AND prevent further aggravation of LBP. Since we know that muscle spasms are the most common cause of LBP, all we need to do to effect speedy recovery is determine which muscle or muscles are involved. Sounds simple, right? I will discuss the complexities of isolating the muscles involved in LBP in my next post.

Learn more about COAST Physical Therapy Services comprehensive physical therapy programs for backs.