Richard Birrer, MD


Low Back Pain

July 01, 2003

ABSTRACT: Regardless of the specific underlying pathology, most patients with low back pain benefit from a program of rehabilitative exercise. The goal of such a program is to increase muscle activity while minimizing stress to the spine. Low-intensity, high-frequency endurance training accomplishes both objectives. Include in the program flexibility exercises, exercises to strengthen the abdominal muscles, exercises for the proximal paraspinal and periscapular muscles, extensor exercises, and exercises to strengthen the legs and stabilize the trunk. Introduce the exercises in this order and advise patients not to progress to a new exercise until they are comfortable performing the less difficult ones.

Low Back Pain:

July 01, 2003

ABSTRACT: When a patient presents with low back pain, ask about the location and quality of the pain, what makes the pain increase or decrease, associated symptoms, and risk factors. Clues to systemic causes of low back pain include fever; arthritis; iritis; signs and/or symptoms of GI disease, pelvic disease, or renal disease; tachycardia; and integumentary abnormalities. Perform a neurovascular evaluation as well as a detailed musculoskeletal examination. Imaging studies are not necessary for most patients initially. Acute therapy consists of the application of cold and heat and analgesics such as acetaminophen or an NSAID. Early exercise-not bed rest-is the cornerstone of treatment. Follow-up is mandatory: in 3 to 7 days for patients with severe pain, inconsistent findings, mild neurologic abnormalities, or a history of progres- sive symptoms; and in 10 to 14 days for patients with no neurologic compromise.