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Lower back pain is a common complaint. Eight out of ten adults will have lower back pain at some point in their lives. Only 5% to 10% of back pain cases involve an actual back disorder. The majority of lower back pain cases are non-specific and have a good prognosis.

The cause of back pain is not always known exactly, but in most cases it involves a functional disorder or mechanical irritation. This is called non-specific back pain. Non-specific back pain may be acute or persistent. However, x-ray or other imaging methods are not usually needed when you are examined.

Sciatica involves back pain radiating to the leg. The most common cause when symptoms are pronounced is a slipped disc, which may also result in sensory disturbances in the foot and weakness of the ankle muscles. Sciatica symptoms usually heal very well. The healing time is usually one to three months.

Self-care

  • Keep moving and using your back. 
  • Pay attention to ergonomic aspects and take breaks from sitting.
  • If necessary, alleviate pain with analgesic gels, NSAIDs and by applying cold or hot packs.
  • Stretch and use postural therapy. 
  • Avoid bed rest. 

When should I seek treatment?

See a healthcare professional if: 

  • you suddenly experience urinary or bowel incontinence (?), and/or you have numbness around the anus or genitalia.
  • you have symptoms of an infection such as fever or reduced resistance to infections;
  • the pain is due to a fall or an accident; or
  • you have had some form of cancer, and your back pain has persisted for several weeks. 

When should you see a physiotherapist?

See a physiotherapist if:

  • your back pain does not ease in a few weeks despite self-care; or
  • you have recurrent episodes of back pain.

Information sources: Duodecim, www.selkakanava.fi

FSHS Physiotherapist / 4 October 2019 

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