5 Essential Tips For People With Lower Back Pain

5 Essential Tips For People With Lower Back Pain

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5 Essential Tips For People With Lower Back Pain

At some point, you’re probably going to have lower back pain.  Something like 80% of us will.  Being a physical therapist, I’m frequently asked by family and friends what they should do when their back hurts.  I tell them to come see an OSI physical therapist, since about ½ of all patients in PT are in for low back pain.  Of course, that’s not what they’re really asking me.  They’re asking me what I would do if I had low back pain.  So, without further ado, here are:

5 simple tips/things I would suggest you consider if your back starts hurting

1) Movement

Keep yourself moving – Why?  Because you’ll most likely recover faster, maintain your mobility and function, and feel less depressed.  If nothing else, you won’t become deconditioned.  Motion is lotion baby.


2) Appointment

If it’s not getting better – get in quick.  Whether that means going directly to your physical therapist first or having your primary physician check it out, people tend to get better faster if they don’t wait around before getting treatment.  Here’s a study by a bunch of doctors that found people who were seen in PT within 4 weeks were MUCH less likely to later need surgery or a spinal injection versus those people who dilly-dallied around.  Since spine surgeries cost $25,000-80,000, it’s good to not need one of those.


3) No Referral Necessary

If you’ve had a back problem before (or this is your first low back injury), realize you are more than likely able to directly come to PT without needing a physician’s referral.  My colleague Amy wrote a great blog on how you can directly access PT if you’re wanting more information.


4) X-Rays & MRI’s

X-rays and MRIs aren’t always needed.  In fact, here’s a study by some physicians that found not only do MRI’s typically not add any value or change the course of treatment, one thing they DID do is freak patients out.  Let me repeat that.  MRIs typically did not change how patients were treated, AND they made patients more worried.  Ignorance is bliss, right?  Plus, they’re expensive.   Like…$1000-$5000 or so.  Now, there are certain instances where an MRI is warranted with people who have acute low back pain, but your physician should be the one making that decision.   Just because Aunt Carole had an MRI that showed a huge disk bulge doesn’t mean you need one.


5) TBC

Know that not all low back pain is the same, so what works for some doesn’t work for others.  I would suggest finding a physical therapist who utilizes the treatment-based classification (TBC) approach.  What is the TBC?  It’s a way therapists categorize different symptoms in people who have low back pain, and treat them according to how these symptoms.  Depending on their symptoms, some patients need primarily manual (hands-on) therapy, some need specific stretching exercises, some need mostly strengthening, and some may need traction.  Most patients will get a combination of many of these things, but what we do know is that when therapists use this system, patients usually get better faster.  And they don’t spend as much money.

So there it is – 5 simple tips to remember when it comes to low back pain.  Of course there are plenty more things to consider, so if you have more questions about managing low back pain, or you want the full PDF articles of anything I linked in here, please feel free to email me at plarson@osipt.com or call at 651-464-8502.  Have a good one!

– Pete

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Peter Larson

Peter Larson

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