Spinal

What is Physiotherapy Treatment?

Physiotherapists help people affected by illness, injury or disability through exercise, manual joint therapy, soft tissue techniques education and advice.  Physiotherapists maintain physical health, help patients to manage pain and prevent disease for people of all ages. Physiotherapists help to encourage pain-relief, injury recovery, enabling people to stay playing a sport, working or performing activities of daily living while assisting them to remain functionally independent.

There is a multitude of different physiotherapy treatment approaches.

Acute & Sub-Acute Injury Management

Hands-On Physiotherapy Techniques

physiotherapy treatment

Your physiotherapist's training includes hands-on physiotherapy techniques such as:

Your physiotherapist has skilled training. Physiotherapy techniques have expanded over the past few decades. They have researched, upskilled and educated themselves in a spectrum of allied health skills. These skills include techniques shared with other healthcare practitioners. Professions include exercise physiologists, remedial massage therapists, osteopaths, acupuncturists, kinesiologists, chiropractors and occupational therapists, just to name a few.

Physiotherapy Taping

Your physiotherapist is a highly skilled professional who utilises strapping and taping techniques to prevent and assist injuries or pain relief and function.

Alternatively, your physiotherapist may recommend a supportive brace.

Acupuncture and Dry Needling

Many physiotherapists have acquired additional training in the field of acupuncture and dry needling to assist pain relief and muscle function.

Physiotherapy Exercises

Physiotherapists have been trained in the use of exercise therapy to strengthen your muscles and improve your function. Physiotherapy exercises use evidence-based protocols where possible as an effective way that you can solve or prevent pain and injury. Your physiotherapist is highly-skilled in the prescription of the "best exercises" for you and the most appropriate "exercise dose" for you depending on your rehabilitation status. Your physiotherapist will incorporate essential components of pilates, yoga and exercise physiology to provide you with the best result. They may even use Real-Time Ultrasound Physiotherapy so that you can watch your muscles contract on a screen as you correctly retrain them.

Biomechanical Analysis

Biomechanical assessment, observation and diagnostic skills are paramount to the best treatment. Your physiotherapist is a highly skilled health professional. They possess superb diagnostic skills to detect and ultimately avoid musculoskeletal and sports injuries. Poor technique or posture is one of the most common sources of a repeat injury.

Hydrotherapy

Aquatic water exercises are an effective method to provide low bodyweight exercises.

Sports Physiotherapy

Sports physio requires an extra level of knowledge and physiotherapy skill to assist injury recovery, prevent injury and improve performance. For the best advice, consult a Sports Physiotherapist.

Vestibular Physiotherapy

Women's Health

Women's Health Physiotherapy is a particular interest group of therapies.

Workplace Physiotherapy

Not only can your physiotherapist assist you in sport, but they can also help you at work. Ergonomics looks at the best postures and workstation set up for your body at work or home. Whether it be lifting technique improvement, education programs or workstation setups, your physiotherapist can help you.

Electrotherapy

Plus Much More

Your physiotherapist is a highly skilled body mechanic. A physiotherapist has particular interests in certain injuries or specific conditions. For advice regarding your individual problem, please contact your PhysioWorks team.

What Can Cause Severe Low Back Pain?

A sudden injury most often causes acute low back pain. The most common injury sources are the muscles and ligaments supporting the back. The pain may be caused by muscle spasms or a strain or tear in the muscles and ligaments. But occasionally, it can have a more sinister cause.

Warning Signs of a More Serious Back Injury?

In these instances of neurological deficit, please urgently consult your nearest hospital, doctor or physiotherapist. The following neurological signs warrant prompt assessment:
  • pins and needles (paraesthesia),
  • numbness (anaesthesia),
  • leg muscle weakness,
  • altered reflexes,
  • difficulty walking,
  • loss of control of bladder or bowels.

Non-Musculoskeletal Causes of Low Back Pain

Although most low back pain is musculoskeletal in origin, other health conditions can cause low back pain.
  • Abdominal aortic aneurysm
  • Infection of the spine (osteomyelitis, discitis)
  • Kidney infection or kidney stones
  • Spondyloarthropathies: e.g. rheumatoid arthritis, psoriatic arthritis.
  • Female reproductive organs: e.g. pregnancy complications, ovarian cysts or cancer, endometriosis
Please seek the professional advice of your trusted and experienced healthcare practitioner to diagnose the cause of your lower back pain.

What Causes Lower Back Pain?

Researchers and spinal health care practitioners categorise lower back bain into the following categories: 1. Specific Spinal Pathologies  (<1%) 2. Radicular Syndromes (5-10%) 3. Non-Specific Lower Back Pain (NSLBP) (Bardin et al., 2017)

Specific Spinal Pathologies

Some conditions that cause back pain do require an urgent and specific referral and treatment. These conditions include: These conditions do require early diagnosis and prompt referral to the appropriate medical specialist.  Luckily these conditions account for less than 1% of back pain sufferers, but you don't want them missed. Some referrals should be IMMEDIATE!

Radicular Syndromes

Lower back pain can result from structural damage that can irritate or pinch a nerve. Researchers believe that radicular syndrome causes 5-10% of the presentations of back pain to general practitioners.

Radicular pain (e.g. sciatica)

The most common pinched nerve in the lower back is your sciatic nerve. You may be diagnosed with sciatica if you are suffering radicular pain down your leg due to a back injury. While the sciatic nerve is the most common nerve that can be affected by a spinal injury, you can modify any spinal nerve function (e.g. femoral nerve). The following back injuries may cause radicular pain: Pain is due to swelling or space-occupying material adjacent to the spinal nerve. The affected nerve may be simply irritated, resulting in radicular pain. Or, even worse, become pinched or compressed, resulting in radiculopathy.

Radiculopathy

Lumbar radiculopathy can result in functionally disabling conditions such as foot drop, foot slap or eversion muscle weakness that can affect your ability to walk.

Spinal Stenosis

Spinal stenosis is a slightly different condition and relates to the narrowing of the spinal canal. Spinal stenosis is usually more prevalent as you age.

Non-Specific Lower Back Pain (NSLBP)

Non-Specific Lower Back Pain (NSLBP) is the diagnostic term used to classify sufferers of lower back pain with no specific structure injured. It is a diagnosis of exclusion. In other words, your spinal health care practitioner has excluded specific spinal pathologies and any of the radicular syndromes mentioned above as the cause of your back pain or symptoms. Fortunately, these conditions account for approximately 90-95% of lower back pain and can nearly always successfully rehabilitate without the need for surgery. Most improve within two to six weeks. They can be fast-tracked with pain relief and physiotherapy techniques such as manual therapy and back exercises.

NSLBP Causes

  The causes of NSLBP are numerous but roughly fall into either a sudden (traumatic) or sustained overstress injuries. Most people can relate to traumatic injury such as bending awkwardly to lift a heavy load that tears or damages structures. However, sustained overstress injuries (e.g. poor posture) are probably more common but also more straightforward to prevent. In these cases, positional stress or postural fatigue creates an accumulated microtrauma that overloads your lower back structures over an extended period to cause injury and back pain. Most commonly, NSLBP causes include back muscle strain or back ligament sprain. Other chronic back conditions such as degenerative disc disease may underly your acute disc health and predispose you to the severe pain. The good news is that you can take measures to prevent or lessen most back pain episodes. Early diagnosis and specific individualised treatment is the easiest way to recover quickly from lower back pain and to prevent a recurrence.

What is Back Muscle Pain?

Back muscle pain or its aliases: pulled back muscle, back muscle spasm, torn back muscle or back muscle strain, is very common. Back muscle pain is the most common source of back pain. The good news is that it is also one of the quickest to heal and rehabilitate.

What Causes Back Muscle Pain?

Most causes of low back pain are muscle, ligament or joint-related. Commonly, these muscular strains, ligament sprains and joint dysfunction arises suddenly during or following physical loading of your spine. Muscle fatigue, excessive loads, high speeds or poor lifting postures are the most common causes. The causes of pure back pain are numerous but roughly fall into the following categories.

Back Muscle Strains

Muscle pain is the most common source of back pain. Muscle fatigue, excessive loads or poor lifting or sitting postures are the most common problems. Inefficient, weak, or back muscles that lack endurance or normal contraction timing can lead to reduced joint stabilisation and subsequent injury to your back muscles, ligaments, joints or even spinal discs.

Poor Posture

Poor posture, when sitting, standing and lifting at work, can place unnecessary stress upon your spine. With muscle fatigue or overstretching, your ligaments and discs can stretch, and this puts spinal joint muscles and nerves under pain-causing pressure or strain, that results in back pain.

Ligament Sprains

Ligaments are the durable, fibrous bands that limit the amount of movement available at each spinal level. Stretching ligaments too far or too quickly will tear them with subsequent bleeding into the surrounding tissues, causing swelling, muscular spasm and pain. Awkward lifting, sports injuries and motor vehicle accidents are prevalent causes. Just as in other regions of the body, physiotherapy hastens ligament healing and relieves pain so that you can enjoy life again as soon as possible.

What are the Symptoms of Back Muscle Pain?

Back muscle pain symptoms may range from a mild ache to sudden debilitating back pain. Typical back muscle pain symptoms include:
  • Localised back pain, with no radiation into your buttock or leg.
  • Back muscle tenderness and spasm.
  • Protective back stiffness.
  • Sudden back pain onset.
You will usually feel better when resting and may find a change of position painful, e.g. sit to stand, rolling in bed, walking or bending.

How is Back Muscle Pain Diagnosed?

Differentiating a back muscle strain from a ligament sprain can be difficult, as both injuries will show similar symptoms. In general, it doesn't significantly matter what you call the problem because the treatment and prognosis for both back muscular strains and ligament sprains are similar. Most spinal practitioners refer to both injuries as a category called a "Back Strain" or "Musculoligamentous Strain". X-rays and CT scans do not identify muscle or ligament injury. MRI scan is probably the best diagnostic test to determine the muscle or ligament structures injured.

What is Back Muscle Pain Treatment?

Seek a Professional Diagnosis!

A spinal healthcare practitioner, such as your physiotherapist, should thoroughly; examine you to exclude more severe sources of back pain. Numerous injuries can cause back pain, and the treatment does vary significantly depending on your diagnosis. Physiotherapy treatment aims to protect your damaged tissue while hastening your muscle and ligament healing and then look at strategies to prevent a recurrence. Your physiotherapist has some nifty tricks for quickly relieving your back pain so that you can enjoy life again as soon as possible.

Core Exercises

While all back exercises that strengthen the muscles that traverse your back are essential, back pain researchers have emphasised retraining your deep core muscles as a priority. "Core Stability" is your body's ability to control and support your spine via specific muscles dynamically. Your spine is an inherently unstable area of your body. Your lower back has five vertebrae that allow twisting, bending and arching with no other bones to assist. They sit on top of a triangular bone called the sacrum, which wedges itself into the pelvis. Unfortunately, without strong support, all of these bones would fall in a heap on the ground. Your deep core muscles are the main structures that support, control and move your lower spine and pelvis. They are also the most energy-efficient and best-positioned muscles to do the job for 24 hours a day. However, when they turn off, your spine is not fully supported by its usual muscular corset. This lack of support makes it quite vulnerable to injury and chronic pain. Research has shown that our back pain causes your "deep core stability" muscles to STOP working in EVERY case. The first time you experience low back pain, your brain automatically inhibits the regular activity of the Transversus Abdominis (TA) muscle. This inhibition occurs in 100% of sufferers. Unfortunately, even once the back pain has eased the TA muscle does not automatically switch on again. Inhibition of the TA muscle exposes your spine to further trauma and hence "recurrent back pain". Each incident becomes a little more severe, and consequently, further wasting of the TA occurs. Other causes of muscle inhibition include previous abdominal surgery, pelvic pain and post-pregnancy.

What are the Benefits of Core Stability Training?

Researchers have shown that the correct use of your core stability muscles not only prevents pain but also alleviates pain if you're already suffering. Also, your body's strength, power, endurance and performance will improve. You'll be able to run faster, jump higher and even throw further when these muscles work correctly. For more information, please contact your physiotherapist.

Core Stability Muscles

The deep core stability muscles of the lower spine include:
  • Transversus Abdominis (TA)
  • Multifidus (MF)
  • Pelvic Floor (PF)

Transversus Abdominis

core.stability.muscles The Transversus Abdominis (TA) is the deepest abdominal muscle. It is the "corset muscle" of the spine and pelvis. In the typical situation, TA contracts in anticipation of body motion to guard the spinal joints, ligaments, discs and nerves.

Multifidus

Multifidus (MF) muscles are very short muscles running from the transverse processes (on the sides) of one vertebra up to the spinous process (the middle of the back) of the next vertebra upwards. Their primary function is back stability. They do not produce an extensive range of movement, but work to provide small, "fine-tuning" postural changes, all day long.

Pelvic Floor & Diaphragm

The TA and the MF work in conjunction with your pelvic floor and diaphragm to make a flexible but stable region around your lumbar spine. It is this ability to stabilise your lumbar spine in its many positions that enable you to overcome back problems and reduce your chances of a reoccurrence.

What Are The Ideal Core Exercises?

Your deep core stability muscles retraining uses specific low-level activation exercises. While a very skilled physiotherapist who has training in deep core activation can observe and palpate for the correct muscle contraction, the best way is to see them working on a real-time ultrasound scan. Real-Time Ultrasound Physiotherapy guidance allows you to see how your muscles are contracting in real-time. This visual feedback will enable you to correct your specific deep core muscles inside your stomach, lower back, and pelvic floor as you attempt to contract those muscles.

Beware of “Core Stability” Exercises!

The fitness industry is full of fitness instructors who profess to know how to activate your core stability muscles. Unfortunately, the wrong core exercises will do you harm. Most progress your core exercises far too quickly and bypass these critical muscles to strengthen your outer abdominal muscles further and leave your deep core muscles weak. Research evidence has found that this renders you vulnerable to lower back pain and injury.

How Good is Your Core Stability?

Research clearly shows that core stability retraining has short and long-term benefits for low back pain sufferers. The good news is that we also know that core stability training markedly reduces your chances of re-injury. Research on lower back pain sufferers has shown us that if you can re-activate your core stability muscles, your chance of recurring back pain reduces. Your chances of not experiencing another bout of low back pain (LBP) within twelve months are almost three times better if you have undertaken an ultrasound-guided exercise program84% vs 30%. After three years, you still have a two in three chance of not experiencing low back pain if you did the exercises. Adding even more research support, if you didn't do the exercises, you only have a one in four chance of being pain-free. You're still over twice as likely to not experience another episode of back pain. Hides et al. (2001). PhysioWorks physiotherapists have professional knowledge in the training of core stability muscles. The difficulty has always been how to quantify a patient's level of stability control. That is, until now. The solution has been to develop a useful and clinically practical method of assessing your level of core stability. We can then determine and at what level it fails to cope when the demands placed upon your body. That is, what is the individual client's functional Back Stability Score (BSS)?

How Do We Assess Your Core Stability?

Your PhysioWorks physiotherapist will assess you to determine your current symptoms, pathology and functional requirement. Then, they'll physically test you to decide on your back stability based your ability to activate your core control muscles (transversus abdominis, multifidus and gluteals). If you can isolate these muscles, we are then able to test further when your core stability muscles lose control of your spine, become inhibited or fatigue. This testing assists us in determining what tasks make you vulnerable to back pain or injury.

What Happens After Your Core Stability Score is Determined?

Based on your functional needs, your treatment directs towards your specific areas of weakness. The result is a much stronger, stable and pain-free back. If you would like to know your Back Stability Score, please contact PhysioWorks.

What are the Benefits of the Functional Back Stability Score?

For Patients

  • You have a quantitative guide to your functional goals
  • You have a current status score. Progress is measurable.
  • You can progress quickly through the BSS levels to maintain motivation and self-esteem
  • Individualised treatment. Different retraining options depending upon desired outcomes.
  • You can self manage in long-term
  • Your goals are functional (task-related) rather than merely a strength score.
  • Quantitative Feedback for You, Your Health Practitioners and Insurers.
  • Achieve stepped goals and sensible, steady exercise and treatment progressions.
  • We'll educate you on how to prevent future injuries.
  • You'll be introduced to ergonomics and understand the best postures for you
  • You will prevent future bouts or at least minimise their severity
  • It's a research-backed solution.
  • It's perfect for all ages and physical ability.
  • There is a clear path for progression.
  • You perform your exercises in the comfort of your own home without expensive gym equipment or membership
  • You'll have personalised professional guidance for assessment, reassessments and progressions.
  • You'll be pain-free ASAP

For Clinicians & Insurers

  • It's a precise measure of your functional capacity
  • It allows better judgments on patient directions, e.g. returns to work
  • It offers better-individualised advice and treatment
  • It reduces jargon through measurable standardisation
  • It's a practical measure that can be related to other outcome measures such as Oswestry Disability Score
  • There is a clinically relevant correlation between subjective and objective findings
  • It reduces malingering.

What Conditions Does the Back Stability Program Improve?

  • Spinal Pain
  • Spinal Posture
  • Pelvic floor function
  • Sciatica
  • Spondylolisthesis
  • Spondylosis
  • Degenerative Disc Disease
  • Poor Balance or Fall History

Core Stability vs Pilates

The whole 'core stability' phenomenon started back in the 1920s with a chap named Joseph Pilates, who's exercise regimes have become quite trendy in the last ten years. Pilates talked about developing a 'girdle of strength' by learning to recruit the deep-trunk muscles. Even without complete knowledge of anatomy and the benefits of the latest muscle activity research, he was aware of the importance of these deep muscles and their supportive effects. Put simply; core stability training targets explicitly the smaller and deeper back and stomach muscles. Once recruited, these muscles control the position of the spine during dynamic movements of your body.

Is Pilates for Everyone?

Sadly, No! Exercise programs that aim to develop your deep core strength can often do just the opposite. The most common reason for injury and back pain is the incorrect timing of core muscle recruitment.  Pilates, Yoga, gym strengthening and other forms of exercise place high demands on your core stability system. Abnormal core muscle recruitment order increases your injury chance proportion with the exercise difficulty. Remember, if you build a tower on a weak foundation, it will eventually topple. Look what happened to the Leaning Tower of Pisa. It's got lousy core stability! The same goes for your core stability muscles. However, recruiting the deeper core muscles before your superficial layers just like adding floors to a sturdy skyscraper and your back will be healthy and pain-free forever.

Why is it Important to Specially Retrain your Core Stability Muscles?

Once the core muscles become weak, and their timing is incorrect, you can experience prolonged back pain and are at much higher risk of re-occurrence. Research has identified that the order of core muscle recruitment is one of the most critical factors in the prevention or resolution of pain.  Real-Time Ultrasound Physiotherapy has proven particularly useful to correct the muscle recruitment order. To solve your back pain and to reduce your re-injury risk, you must retrain these muscles back to an appropriate level for your needs. If you are relatively sedentary, you may only need a low level of control, however, if you are a high-level sportsperson or a manual worker you will need to work up to a much higher level of core strength.

What Should You Expect?

In the initial stage, you need to be able to activate these muscles consciously and incorporate them into an exercise program. A lot of people find it difficult to isolate these muscles and need help to be able to activate them effectively. Research has discovered that real-time ultrasound-guided treatment is the most effective way to retrain an isolated and well-timed core stability contraction successfully.

More information

Pilates is available at some of our PhysioWorks clinics.
Real-Time Ultrasound Physiotherapy is available at some of our PhysioWorks clinics.
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