Do you have achy low back pain at the end of a work day? Or do you experience sharp low back pain that lasts for a few miserable days? El Paso Manual Physical Therapy, in El man in back painPaso TX, is here to help.

You’re not alone. Low back pain affects nearly everyone at some point in their life. It is estimated that 8 out of 10 Americans will get back pain at some point in their life, and it usually begins to affect people in their 30s.(1,2) In the US, the estimated cost of low back pain treatment and lost wages due to missed work is a mind-blowing $55 billion.1

What does the research say?

Two years ago, a scientific article reinforced that there are different kinds of low back pain that each benefit from different types of treatment.(3) I believe that this is related to the many different structures in the low back that could generate pain. The most commonly affected structures are the facet joints, discs, nerves, muscles and ligaments. These structures do not have to be visibly damaged on an MRI in order to generate pain. It has been established for over 20 years that MRIs show damaged structures in people without low back pain.(4)

The previous approaches toward treatment for low back pain have historically been the same for everyone. This is because most flare-ups of low back pain go away on their own over time, so most physicians will prescribe medication in order to alleviate the pain and get you through the flare up. Common medications you may have received are prescription strength pain relievers like hydrocodone and muscle relaxers such as Flexeril. If your pain is really severe, your physician may give you a corticosteriod injection. These medications are good at relieving pain and calming muscle spasms, but they do not address the source of your low back pain.

Get The Back Pain Guide

strenghten your coreAnother popular recommendation is to strengthen your core. There is excellent research showing that certain exercise will benefit certain types of low back pain.(3) Some physicians will issue you exercises, but they usually don’t see you enough to make sure that you are doing them right. Certain core exercises could add to your problem by making already strong muscles stronger. If your form is not right, you could be using your hip muscles too much. Overactive hip muscles can cause the low back to be too curved. Let El Paso Manual Physical Therapy, in El Paso TX, show you the correct methods.

I have low back pain, what can I start doing right now?

The best place to start fixing your low back pain is to correct your posture. Be warned, this is potentially a long process that takes a lot of effort. Set a timer on your smartphone or get a small kitchen timer that you can carry around with you at all times and make it go off every hour. When the alarm goes off, sit up straight and slightly draw in you abs. On a zero to 100% scale, only draw in your abs about 10-20% when sitting. Brace your abs harder when you do more difficult tasks. For example, if you are standing waiting in line at the grocery store brace 25-50%. When pushing your full grocery cart out to your car you should brace 50-75%, When you load up that heavy case of bottled water into your car, then brace 75-100%.

To sum it up, brace your abs harder when doing harder activities. Sometimes this exercise can clear up your back pain completely. Due to the complexity of the low back, it may only partially reduce your pain or make it worse. If your back pain does not clear up, see your physical therapist for a thorough assessment of your low back pain. Or contact El Paso Manual Physical Therapy, in El Paso TX, to see how we can help you.

So mom was right when she told me to sit up straight…

Posture is extremely important for low back pain because poor posture alters the way that your spine absorbs and transmits forces. When I look at posture, I look at the amount of curvature in the spine and alignment of the head, arms and legs in different positions and while moving. Correcting posture is difficult because initially you have to mom talking to daughterconstantly remind yourself about it. It means you have to give up your bad habit of poor posture and take on a good habit of the right posture.

Abdominal muscles are not functionally designed to make you do 50 consecutive sit-ups. They’re much better designed to work with your low back muscles to keep your spine stable during all other movements. They’re postural muscles that should be working all day long while your body is upright and moving. Their purpose is to prevent you from losing your balance and collapsing due to the forces from gravity. They’re also not the only muscles that get weak when you have low back pain. There are several other muscles than can weaken and develop an imbalance with surrounding muscles. It takes eyes and hands of a skilled clinician to be able to find muscle imbalances and prescribe the right exercises to be sure you get relief.

Physical therapists at El Paso Manual Physical Therapy are well trained in identifying the cause of pain in patients with low back pain and then implementing the correct treatment that best suits the individual’s lifestyle.


  1. Steenstra I, Verbeek J, Heymans M, Bongers P. Prognostic factors for duration of sick leave in patients sick list with acute low back pain: a systematic review of the literature. Occup Environ Med 2005; 62(12):851-860. doi:10.1136/oem.2004.015842
  2. Hoy D, Brooks P, Blyth F, Buchbinder R. The Epidemiology of low back pain. Best Pract Res Clin Rheumatol 2010; 24(6):769-781. doi:10.1016/j.berh.2010.10.002.
  3. Delitto A, George SZ, Van Dillen LR, et al. Low back pain. J Orthop Sports Phys Ther 2012; 42 (A):A1-57. doi:10.2519/jospt.2012.42.4.A1.
  4. Boden SD, Davis DO, Dina TS, Patronas NJ, Wisesl SW. Abnormal mangnetic-resonance scans of the lumbar spine in asymptomatic subjects. A prospective investigation. J Bone Joint Surg Am 1990; 72(3)403-408