Effective Lower Back Pain Therapies and Treatments

With thousands of Ontarians suffering from debilitating lower back pain each year and 80% of the population experiencing back pain some time in their lives, research programs have been implemented to look into the various back pain causes and treatment options available.

Experts from the Ontario Ministry of Health and Long-term Care conclude that 90% of lower back pain is not caused by injury or disease and offer sufferers hope that most can reduce their pain through exercise, therapies and lifestyle changes. For the remaining 10% that have endured a back injury, defect or disease, great progress has been made in the field of back pain medicine to pinpoint the exact cause and to ease the long-term effects. Treatments, once limited to complete bed rest, now include Physiotherapy, Kinesiology, Chiropractic care, Massage therapy and Acupuncture, to help patients return to normal activity as quickly as possible.

Common Lower Back Pain Causes

Stability and movement are greatly affected with strain or injury to the lower back muscles or lower spine. Often, pain can radiate from or to spine, hips, legs, upper back or sciatic nerve. The most common causes of low back pain are:

  • Sciatica – leg pain that originates in the lower back, down the sciatic nerve
  • Workplace injuries – from lifting, twisting, turning or over exertion
  • Sports injuries – repetitive impact, twisting motion or weight loading
  • Motor Vehicle Accident Injuries – back trauma/inflammation from twists, severe impact, or whiplash that caused injury to discs or low back facet joints
  • Pregnancy – weight gain, posture and hormone changes, muscle separation, stress
  • Pinched nerve – compression on a nerve from repetitive motions or long periods of inactivity
  • Herniated, slipped or bulging disc – gel leaking into the spinal canal from disc degeneration
  • Osteoarthritis in back – breakdown of cartilage of the joints and discs
  • Scoliosis or spinal stenosis – deformity and unnatural curvature of the spine

Lower Back Pain Risk Factors

There are many risk factors associated with lower back pain, and they can be divided into three categories: Physical and family, lifestyle and medical. While every issue may not be within your control, many can be minimized through lifestyle changes or medical treatment.

  • Middle age or older
  • Male – men have a great risk of low back injury or pain
  • Family history
  • Pregnancy – carrying a baby puts significant stress on the lower back
  • Previous compression fractures of the spine
  • Previous back surgery
  • Birth defect
  • Limited exercise
  • Job with limited activity, long periods of sitting, repetitive motion, strenuous exercise or constant vibration
  • Smoking – reduced blood supply to the spine, circulation of pain conducting chemicals, higher osteoporosis risk
  • Overweight or obese – weak muscles and reduced flexibility
  • Poor posture
  • Stress – unconscious tightening of the back muscles
  • Depression – studies indicate that depression can both cause low back pain and be a symptom of the pain
  • Long-term use of bone-weakening medicines (corticosteroids)
  • Chronic coughing due to illness
  • Stomach sleeping – especially when keeping the elbow bent for extended periods of time

Reduce Lower Back Pain

Keeping your lower back pain in check or reducing its effects on your daily living can often be accomplished through various treatment methods. Results may vary dependent on your particular diagnosis. Therapeutic treatments and exercises include:


Restoring strength, endurance, movement and physicality is critical to the reduction or elimination of low back pain. While you may be wary of attempting any physical therapy exercises at the onset of a problem, often early intervention can prevent additional or more severe problems from occurring. Whether you’re experiencing the first signs of a minor issue or are incapacitated by severe pain, our physiotherapist will complete an in-depth assessment of your symptoms and prepare a treatment regimen to ease your pain.

Physical therapy sessions incorporate targeted exercises, pain-relieving techniques, electrotherapy, soft tissue and joint mobilization to help patients regain mobility and return to normal activities as quickly as possible. Treatments can often be managed with weekly or bi-weekly visits to a rehab facility and combined with at-home guided exercises.

Physical therapy sessions are often recommended treatment methods for sports or fall injuries, post-operative rehabilitation, recovery from auto accident injuries, musculo-skeletal issues, chronic and acute injuries, loss of function and spinal injuries.


Applied kinesiology is the study of human movement and is used to treat many ailments including lower back pain. Methods include the use of heat, stretching, interferential current (IFC) therapy, therapeutic ultrasound, and strength and conditioning exercises. Specially trained and licensed by the College of Kinesiologists of Ontario, kinesiologists work to restore your normal level of function by improving stability, increasing strength, help you achieve greater overall fitness, and reduce your risk of injury.

The use of therapeutic ultrasound is commonly used in kinesiology to speed the healing process. Ultrasonic waves are delivered to the injury site to relax muscles, break down scar tissue and stimulate blood flow.

Chiropractic Treatment

Canadian chiropractors are trained and licensed by the College of Chiropractors of Ontario to assess and diagnose back pain, and provide holistic treatment through the manual adjustment of vertebrae and joints. By addressing factors such as misalignment, injury, ergonomics, joint dysfunction, exercise and overall heath, a chiropractor can relieve pain and increase mobility without drugs or surgery.

In nerve-related, acute and chronic pain conditions, a Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation unit (TENS) is often used by the chiropractor. Stimulating pulses are sent across the skin and nerve strands to prevent pain signals from reaching the brain. The TENS device is also helpful in endorphin production which is your own natural painkiller.

Chiropractic care is generally beneficial in treating back injuries, chronic lower back pain and back spasms.

Registered Massage Therapy

Low back pain can also be managed through the use of massage therapy. Through the manipulation of soft tissues, including tendons, muscles, ligaments and connective tissues called fascia, the muscular, nervous, and circulatory systems are stimulated to improve function and relieve pain. Specialized hand movements and pressure techniques are used to achieve significant results. Two therapeutic methods include:

Trigger-point massage – focuses on tight spots in the muscles that trigger pain in other parts of the body. By isolating the trigger points and alternately applying and releasing pressure, the massage therapist can then apply sustained pressure to release the trigger point. When this happens, blood flow increases, muscle spasms are reduced and built-up toxins drain. The end result is less pain and greater movement.

Deep tissue massage – similar to traditional massage therapy, it is applied more slowly to concentrated areas. Designed to reach the deepest layers of soft tissue, treatment focuses on specific areas of pain and tension. Pressure steadily increases to reach the deepest layer of soft tissue. Deep tissue massage breaks down adhesions to reduce pain and improve movement.

Registered massage therapists are regulated through the College of Massage Therapists of Ontario and provide benefits, such as: reduced stress, boosted immune system, improved circulation, better lymphatic drainage, and increased relaxation.


Another holistic approach to managing low back pain is through acupuncture. By stimulating specific points in the body, blood flow is increased and natural pain relief occurs. Long, thin, single-use needles are inserted through the skin at meridian pathways to relieve pain and promote healing. Modern techniques also incorporate the use of lasers and TENS units.

Ontario acupuncturists must be licensed and registered with the College of Traditional Chinese Medicine Practitioners and Acupuncturists of Ontario. While acupuncture can address just about any physical or mental condition, this 2,000-year-old practice also promotes healing and pain relief, improves energy and biochemical balance, helps regulate systems throughout the body, and increases physical, mental and emotional well-being.

When Lower Back Pain Strikes

While many back pain cases may resolve on their own in a few weeks, the best course of treatment is to consult with local therapists like those at Main Street Health. When pain strikes, relax your back, apply ice, and schedule a professional assessment to help set you on a path to a speedy recovery.

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