Low back pain can often be the result of spinal joints that are not moving well or produce pain. The spinal bones are called vertebrae and the joints between the spinal bones can be likened to a triangle.
The front point of the triangle cushions forces (the intervertebral disc). The two back points of the triangle open and close (the facet joints). These facet joints can become stiff or hypomobile. Facet joint hypomobility can be caused by a locked facet joint, facet joint arthritis, degenerative facet joint osteophytes (bone spurs) or protective muscle spasm.
You may be familiar with thrust mobilizations that are performed by chiropractors and physical therapists which can result in a cavitation or “pop” sound. Spinal mobilizations are gentler, rhythmic oscillations which can improve facet joint motion and reduce pain. These gentle spinal mobilizations allow more interaction between patient and therapist.
The skilled mobilizations can be broken down into refined grades. For example, we use the Maitland-Australian approach and grading system, so we utilize 12 grades: 1, 2, 3–, 3-, 3, 3+, 3++, 4–, 4-, 4, 4+, 4++. Your skilled therapist will determine the appropriate grade for you during the initial examination and ongoing assessments.
Following spinal mobilizations, it is important to follow with exercises that strengthen the core. Please check out our other blog post entitled, “Core Exercises Can Stabilize the Low Back“.