Low back pain: prevention, management
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27th Special Operations Medical Group
Not a day goes by when the medical team at the 27th Special Operations Medical Group does not encounter someone with low back pain. Low back pain has direct impact on the unit, the mission, families and the individual.
Research has shown that most of the time a specific cause of low back pain cannot be identified. Even with advanced technology, we cannot always attribute low back pain to a specific anatomical structure. This is one reason why it is often not useful to order imaging including X-rays, CT scans or MRIs. Research has shown that findings on imaging studies do not correlate with pain or function. For example, it is possible to have severe back pain with a normal X-ray, CT or MRI. Furthermore, the use of imaging tools may lead to unnecessary and invasive procedures which carry more risks including infection and death.
What to expect from your 27 SOMDG team:
You will be evaluated by a medical provider which is done through an interview and a physical exam. The medical providers' first goal is to rule out serious causes of back pain. If your symptoms do not improve with time and medication, your medical provider may order further tests and refer you to physical therapy.
What to expect if you are referred to physical therapy:
Physical therapy aims to restore normal movement and function through the use of manipulation, mobilization, exercise, modalities and education. Physical therapy is non-invasive and carries little risk. Your physical therapist will perform an interview and an examination, taking into account the specific duties and activities you need to perform. Together, a plan of care is developed to decrease pain and improve function.
Here are some basic tips to prevent and manage low back pain symptoms.
1) Use good posture and do not slouch.
2) Use good work station ergonomics, which include sitting toward the back of your chair with your feet resting on the floor. Your monitor should be an arm's distance in front of you and the top of the monitor should be eye level. Adjust the height of your keyboard so that your shoulders are relaxed and your elbows are slightly above your wrists.
3) When lifting, do not exceed your personal limits. Ask for assistance or use devices to help move heavy loads. Use a wide base of support and bend your knees. Keep your back in a neutral position with your chest lifted and tighten your abdominal muscles. Hold the load close to your body. Do not twist your body.
4) Maintain your physical fitness. Regular cardiovascular, strength and flexibility exercise are important to maintaining a healthy back.
5) Maintain a healthy body weight.
6) Quit smoking. Smoking increases risk of bone loss, sensitivity to pain, disc dehydration, and decreases blood flow thereby decreasing the body's capacity to heal.
In the event you need assistance with treating low back pain, the 27 SOMDG team is here to support you.