Lower back tightness and pain is a prevalent issue that affects approximately 619 million people worldwide. It can leave you struggling to complete your normal daily activities. It’s important to find the underlying issue causing your lower back distress. The treatment approach to help alleviate your tightness and pain can depend on the issue behind it. No matter the culprit, physical therapy is an effective treatment choice to help get you back to your full quality of life.
The lower back, or lumbar spine, is a complex structure that is made up of a number of interconnected components: vertebrae (L1 to L5), intervertebral discs, spinal nerves, muscles, ligaments and facet joints. These work together to help provide stability and support to the upper body as well as allowing for movement.
Symptoms of lower back tightness and pain
Lower back tightness and pain can manifest in a variety of ways, and symptoms can vary from person to person. Common symptoms may include:
- Dull, achy pain.
- Numbness or tingling.
- Sharp or shooting pain.
Conditions that could be causing your lower back tightness and pain
The underlying issue causing your lower back tightness and pain could be caused by a variety of factors including:
- Muscle strain — A muscle strain can be caused by overuse, improper posture when lifting, or sudden movements.
- Herniated disc — A herniated disc occurs when the soft inner core of an intervertebral disc bulges through the outer layer. This herniation can cause compression on nearby nerves and can cause numbness or tingling sensations.
- Degenerative disc disease — Intervertebral discs can be susceptible to degeneration over time. This can result in reduced cushioning and increased friction between the vertebrae in the lower back.
- Spinal stenosis — Spinal stenosis is a condition where the spinal canal or neural foramina narrows. This can lead to nerve compression and pain in the lower back.
- Sciatica — Sciatica is pain that radiates from the lower back down through one or both legs. It is often caused by the compression of the sciatic nerve that originates in the lower back and runs down through the legs.
Treatment options for lower back tightness and pain
When you are struggling with lower back tightness and pain, you want pain relief that is as quick and effective as possible. Treatment options can be a combination of approaches and can include:
- Medications — Over-the-counter pain relievers can help you manage your pain and reduce inflammation that may be behind your tightness and pain. In severe cases, your medical provider may prescribe muscle relaxers or nerve pain medications if necessary.
- Rest and activity modification — If activities are making your symptoms worsen, reducing or modifying activities may help. This can allow the body adequate time to rest, which is a vital part of healing.
- Physical therapy — Physical therapy is an effective conservative treatment approach to help your lower back tightness and pain. A licensed physical therapist can design a treatment plan best suited to your needs and underlying issues.
- Heat and cold therapy — Applying a heating pad or cold packs to your lower back can be beneficial in helping to decrease your back pain. Heat can help to relax tight muscles, while cold can numb the area and help reduce inflammation.
- Injection treatments — In some cases, your medical provider may recommend an epidural steroid injection or facet joint injection. These injections are intended to provide targeted pain relief when other treatments have not been as effective as desired.
Physical therapy techniques for lower back tightness and pain
Physical therapy is an effective and evidence-based treatment in helping to manage lower back pain. Physical therapy techniques that can be beneficial can include:
- Manual therapy — Hands-on techniques like soft tissue mobilization, joint mobilization, and myofascial release may be used by your physical therapist. These techniques are intended to help reduce muscle tension, improve circulation and promote tissue healing.
- Dry needling — Dry needling is a technique employed by certified physical therapists to help alleviate lower back tightness and pain. Fine, sterile needles are inserted into specific muscular trigger points to help release muscle tension, improve circulation and activate the body’s natural pain relief mechanism.
- Therapeutic exercises — Therapeutic exercise programs will be custom-tailored to your specific condition and needs. These exercises are intended to help both strengthen the muscles that support your lower back and improve your flexibility, and can help correct posture issues. Therapeutic exercises are performed under the guidance of your physical therapist to ensure that you complete them properly, maximizing your safety and the effectiveness of the exercises.
- Graston Technique® — The Graston Technique is a specialized form of manual therapy where a certified physical therapist uses specially designed stainless steel instruments to help break down scar tissue, improve circulation, reduce muscle tightness, help improve your range of motion and provide pain relief.
- Cupping — Cupping is a long-used healing practice that can help alleviate muscle tightness and pain. Special cups are placed on your skin’s surface and heated or have a vacuum created by sucking out the air. The cups are left in place for a specific amount of time and then removed.
If lower back tightness and pain have you down, REPAIR SI can help
REPAIR SI can help you find the root cause of your lower back tightness and pain. Our expert team of physical therapists, chiropractors and rehabilitation specialists will be with you every step of the way through your recovery. We will design an innovative and customized treatment to help get you back on your feet. Our goal is to provide you with not only healing for your musculoskeletal system, but a whole body healing. We want to help make you stronger and keep you in the best shape you can be to accomplish your goals with ease.