It has been estimated that over 80 percent of the adult population in America will experience low back pain. Statistically speaking, eight out of 10 of my clients will experience low back pain at some point in their lives. How does a personal trainer know when to refer their clients to a doctor or a trained specialist? What symptoms require a doctor’s care? Where do we draw the line?
Great questions! There are many generic exercise programs available to help manage low back pain (LBP). However, there are certain symptoms that require a doctor’s care. Listed below are guidelines to help point you and your client in the right direction. If your client is experiencing any of the following symptoms, he or she should consult a trained specialist:
- Weakness in one or both legs and/or feet
- Your client’s foot becomes so weak they have trouble pulling up their toes
- Numbness in the legs
- Loss of feeling during a bowel movement
- Inability to start or control bowel movements
- Loss of feeling to groin or anal area
- Back pain that consistently awakens your client from sleep
- Inability to maintain an erection (males, of course)
- If your client experienced an accident like a fall or car accident and their back pain is worsening
- The conditioning program is not gaining improvement
- If a doctor recommends back surgery, always get a second opinion!
Clearly, these are just guidelines. Our suggestion is to recreate a handout of the aforementioned symptoms for your client’s review. This will bring awareness to their possible condition(s), helping you to not only communicate with your client but with the medical community as well. This "caring approach" will go a long way with your clients!
As far as developing a conditioning program that fits into the realm of personal training, refer to Paul Chek’s article The Inner Unit. Strengthening the inner unit will be paramount in your client's LBP program! Always remember, when in doubt - refer out!