Your Physical Health

Treating Common Injuries and Inflictions

Each month our expert Physical Therapists at Forster Physical Therapy will outline home and clinical treatment methods for treating common injuries and inflictions. With over 30 years of experience in treating active people and athletes of all abilities, FPT's highly credentialed staff has helped thousands get back on their feet and enjoying the active, healthy lifestyle they desire.

Lumbar Spine:

What is a low back strain or lumbar sprain?

Muscle strains and lumbar sprains are the most common causes of low back pain. Eighty per cent of us will experience low back pain at some point in our life--it is the second most common cause of missed days of work in the United States! (Only a common cold causes more missed work). A low back muscle strain occurs when the muscle fibers are stretched or torn from chronic stress or traumatic injury. A lumbar sprain occurs when the ligaments, the tough bands of tissue that hold bones together, suffer a tear of some or all the ligament fibers. Differentiating a strain from a sprain can be difficult, as both injuries will show similar symptoms. Physical therapists are trained to perform tests to differentiate the two.

What is a Lumbar Disk Injury?

Another common cause of low back pain is the lumber disk. These shock absorber-like structures between the vertebral bones of the spine allow for movement and flexibility of the spine. The most typical problems occur when the ligament that wraps around the fibrocartilage disk is damaged from chronic poor sitting posture and faulty body mechanics allows the disk to bulge or develops an actual tear allowing for the contents of the disk to leak out. If the bulging disk presses upon a nerve then pain radiating down the leg may occur and if not the bulging disk will cause back pain does not radiate. Typically disk bulging causes more pain sitting, bending, lifting and with a cough and sneeze.

Some warning signs of a serious injury to the spine include:

Loss of control of bladder or bowels
Progressive lower extremity weakness
Severe, constant pain

As said earlier, most back pain is caused by a muscle strain or ligament sprain. However, there are serious conditions that require more immediate treatment. If you are unsure of the cause of your symptoms, you should be evaluated by a qualified Physical Therapist immediately.

Why are sprains and strains of the low back so common?

The spine is supported by large muscles called the paraspinal muscles in the back and the abdominal muscles in the front. These muscles both support the spinal column as well as the weight of the upper body and effect movement. The five lumbar vertebrae are connected by tough ligaments that help to maintain the position of the spinal column. These muscles, ligaments, and bones all work together to provide control and strength for nearly all activities. The lumbar spine muscles are active maintaining standing and sitting postures and are needed for all movements and activities. For this reason injuries to muscles are typically symptomatic with active movement, whereas ligament injuries can be problematic with movement or static postures.

What are the symptoms of a low back injury?

Most lumbar injuries cause symptoms isolated to the low back. The most common symptoms of lumbar injuries include pain around the low back and upper buttocks. This pain is caused by inflammation and/or muscle spasm and must be tracked to discover the aggravating activity and postures.

What causes these symptoms of low back pain and spasm?

When the tissues are injured the bodily response includes the release of chemicals that direct the clean up and repair process. This is called inflammation, which stimulates nerve endings to cause pain and pain causes reflexive muscle spasm. People are often surprised at how painful and debilitating a lumbar injury can be. We take our backs for granted until injury occurs and only then do we realized how our spine is intimately involved in all movements and postures.

Why do some patients tend to have low back strains and sprains more often?

Some of the factors that tend to influence the development low back problems include doing an activity that places their back at risk such as a sudden forceful movement, lifting a heavy object, or twisting the back in an unusual manner. However, most spine wear and tear is caused by poor sitting postures at work, in the car and during leisure activities. Improving the support of the lumbar spine in it's normal extended curve that exists in standing [called lordosis] while sitting and knowing how to lift properly and bend can help to prevent many back injuries.

Some well known factors that contribute to low back pain include:

Poor conditioning
Obesity
Smoking
Improper lifting and bending techniques

If you have persistent problems with your lumbar spine, consider these issues. If you smoke, are overweight, or do not perform regular back strengthening exercises, then you have steps that you can take to help control your symptoms.
How to treat lower back strains and sprains?

Forster Physical Therapy Treatment for Spinal Conditions

The Forster Physical Therapy staff specializes in the treatment of all spinal conditions. We have been chosen as the "Best P.T. Clinic in Los Angeles" for good reason. We have seen tens of thousands of spinal injuries over the last 29 years and have come to appreciate the value of a comprehensive approach to these debilitating conditions. At Foster Physical Therapy we will perform a comprehensive examination to not only discover the painful and injured structures but also the biomechanical cause of the injury.

Our programs involve a three pronged approach to solving spinal problems:

1. Clinical Treatment of the inflammation and spasm with pain reducing modalities, manual therapy and massage techniques
2. Use of a home based therapeutic exercise program of strength and flexibility exercises to address the biomechanical forces that created the injury in the first place
3. Ergonomic instruction for sitting, bending, lifting and even sleeping postures to relieve the stress on the injured tissues and allow for healing.

At Forster Physical Therapy we make you an active participant in your rehab and not a passive recipient of our care. We will teach you how to fix yourself with the above-mentioned approach and stay healthy for life! We make you better than you were before! Mention this article and receive a free injury evaluation!

To schedule a Free Injury Evaluation please call (310) 656-8600.