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Low Back Pain by Gill du Toit

The Facts

Low back pain is one of the most common sources of pain. Research shows the annual incidence of back pain in Africa is 57% and the lifetime incidence of back pain is 47%. These two markers are considerably higher than the global prevalence’s of back pain which are 38.5% and 39% respectively. Despite the high burden, lower back pain management has not been a priority for healthcare systems.


Back pain has many different presentations. You may feel pain across your back, travelling up your spine, pain in your buttocks, or you may have pain travelling down your leg. Sometimes you may also have pins and needles or numbness (something we recommend you see us about sooner rather than later.) Your back pain may feel like stiffness in the morning, or perhaps after you've done a lot through the day, or maybe when you've been standing still for a while. It could even be waking you up when you turn over in bed. All these symptoms and their variations give us useful information to understand what may be giving you a problem.

Assessment / What To Expect

Your first physiotherapy session is very important to start identifying problems and begin addressing these. Initially, we will look at your posture, this will be specific to you and your work or daily activities. For example, some people will need sitting posture assessed, others will need to be looked at while standing or performing other activities such as lifting.

We will then look to see which areas / structures in your body may not be moving well, and take you through a series of tests to establish what may be restricted. Often at this stage, we have enough information to start addressing the possible sources of pain.

Towards the end of the session, we will start to treat the restrictions identified in order to reduce the pain. We will provide you with knowledge to help you understand what is happening in your body. You will receive advice specific to you about changes to make to your habits and positions you may find yourself in through the day. A set of exercises specific to you will be given, based on the findings of your assessment. Ideally, you will put this into practice over the next few days following your appointment.

What Next?

We will check on you in a day or two following your appointment to ensure things are moving in the right direction. Often there is so much to take in that it's hard to retain it all, and get all the exercises correct. Something that is important to note, is that the body has multiple needs to work efficiently. It would be overwhelming to achieve this all at the first session.

Subsequent treatments would advance your exercises as you improve. Then we would need to start assessing your strength and determining which muscles are weak or not working optimally. We test this by getting you to work muscles and push against resistance. Building up your strength is a gradual process. Just like if you've been to gym to lose weight, these changes don't happen overnight.

Through your sessions, we will work on your restrictions and monitor your progress alongside adjusting your exercise programme as you reach your goals. As you go through this process, your pain should ebb away. We would expect for you to see a reduction in pain and symptoms, as stiff structures become more mobile and you become stronger.

And then?

Towards the later stages of your sessions, it's important to take everything you've gained in movement and strength and put it into what we call functional exercises. This means if you are runner, we will give you exercises that mimic running and get everything working together. This is important to pave the way forward so that you prevent future injury and do all your activities as comfortably as possible.

Please contact us on 031 765 8898 if you would like to book a session with one of our physiotherapists. Debbie Cameron Physiotherapy is based at Centenary Medical Centre, 55 Old Main Road Gillitts, and Hillcrest Medical Centre. We are open Monday to Saturday.


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