Ask the PT: About Low Back Pain

Q: What does it mean if my back pain has worsened and now extends into my leg?  What can physical therapy do to help?

A: Low back pain is typically caused by degenerative changes to the lumbar spine [L/S] joints, changes to the intervertebral disc, muscle spasm, or any combination of this group.  Normal “wear and tear” or improper lifting mechanics can lead to these changes and low back muscle strain.  The intervertebral disc acts as a spacer and shock absorber for your back, however as this disc wears down and loses its height, the joint pressure increases.  This increase in pressure on the spinal bone, sometimes referred to as spinal stenosis, can cause; pain, bone spur formation, and narrowing of the available space for the nerve root to exit the spine.  The intervertebral disc can also bulge or herniate, placing pressure on the local nerve root exiting the spine, again possibly causing local back pain and muscle spasm.   If either of these conditions causes significant nerve root irritation then pain, numbness, or tingling can absolutely travel into your leg depending on what nerve root is affected.

A physical therapy evaluation can determine the probable cause of your symptoms which will guide your specific treatment plan.  Positional back exercises to relieve joint and nerve pressure, soft tissue mobilization to decrease muscle spasm, lumbar traction to decrease joint/nerve irritation, would be initiated to alleviate symptoms.  Other modalities such as ultrasound and electrical stimulation could also be used to decrease your back pain.  Functional movement training and trunk strengthening exercises would be implemented as symptoms begin to decrease to promote correct body mechanics and prevent future injury.

Should you have any questions on this topic or any other physical ailments, please call and speak to one of our physical therapists or request an appointment by contacting us below. 

Physical Therapy of Cumberland 401-333-9787