Back pain

Nordic Health – Physiotherapy Center Helsinki

What is back pain?

Lower back pain is the most common disorder worldwide – more than 540 million people suffer from low back pain. Symptoms usually begin during daily activities or after a workday. Over time, the pain intensifies and disrupts normal life. According to a study published by the prestigious medical journal Lancet, low back pain is generally mistreated by medical professionals. For example, surgical procedures, injections, and strong painkillers often worsen the situation.

What are the causes of back pain?

Most back pain cases are classified as nonspecific back pain, and therefore, an exact cause of the pain cannot be identified. MRI and CT scans are often useless. Perceived abnormalities, such as degeneration and wear, are equally common in people with or without back pain. ¹

The pain is often caused by sciatic nerve irritation. Nerve irritation is usually due to a herniated disc caused by a bulging disc. The bulge mechanically presses on the spinal nerve or causes a local reaction in the area. Back pain can also be caused by structural problems in the back, such as scoliosis or spinal overload.

¹ Hartvigsen, J., Hancock, M. J., Kongsted, A., Louw, Q., Ferreira, M. L., Genevay, S., … & Smeets, R. J. (2018). What low back pain is and why we need to pay attention. The Lancet, 391(10137), 2356-2367.


Treatment of back pain

With back pain, it is important to continue daily exercise and back exercise, despite the pain, at appropriate doses. In acute back pain (lasting less than 6 weeks), strain on the back such as carrying, lifting, or sudden extensive twists should be avoided. Taking pain medicine is recommended for acute back pain.

It is important in the prevention and treatment of back pain to keep the muscles of the middle body in good condition, because the deeply functioning abdominal and back muscles support the spine. Active movement improves blood circulation and increases metabolism, which contributes to the healing process. When treating back pain, it is important to start training with low loads and moderate movement. As pain diminishes, it is safe to increase the load to improve back endurance and function.