Medically Reviewed by Dr. K on 28 April 2021
Table of Contents:
- Low Back Pain
- Red Flag Warning Signs
- Risk Factors
Low Back Pain
The lumbar region, also known as the low back, is the area of the back that starts below the ribcage. Low back pain affects almost all at any stage in their lives. In the United States, it's one of the most common reasons for missing work. Fortunately, it usually improves on its own. If it doesn't, your doctor will be willing to assist you with a number of effective treatments.
Symptoms of Low Back Pain
It could be something from a mild ache to a stabbing or shooting pain. It can be difficult to walk or stand up straight due to the pain. Acute pain is described as pain that occurs suddenly. It could happen as a result of sports or heavy lifting. Chronic pain is described as pain that lasts more than 3 months. If the pain persists after 72 hours, you should see a doctor.
Red Flag Warning Signs
If you experience back pain from a fall or injury, you should see a healthcare professional. When you experience back pain that is accompanied by bowel or bladder control problems, leg weakness, fever, or pain while coughing or peeing, you must see a doctor immediately.
Muscle Strain vs Sciatica
Back pain from hard lifting or physical activity is often caused by muscle strain. Small jelly-filled disks that shield the space between vertebrae may also be to blame. Each of these disks will push on a nerve if it bulges or breaks. As the sciatic nerve is triggered, pain radiates from the buttock down one leg. This is a case of sciatica.
Lifting, pulling, or anything that twists the spine will cause back pain. Sitting at a desk all day, on the other hand, has its own set of risks, particularly if your chair is uncomfortable or if you slouch.
While you carry your purse, backpack, or briefcase on your shoulder, the upper body — and any extra weight you carry — is supported by the lower back. As a result, a heavy bag will put a strain on your lower back, especially if you carry it all day. Try switching to a wheeled briefcase if you have a heavy load to carry.
One of the most common causes of overextended muscles contributing to low back pain is overexertion at the gym or in doing any other activity. You're especially weak if you're physically inactive throughout the week and then spend the weekend at the gym or softball field.
When moms said, “Stand up straight!" they were absolutely right. If you don't slouch, your back will better support your weight. This implies sitting with good lower back support, shoulders back, and feet resting on a low stool. Maintain a healthy weight distribution on both feet while standing.
Gel-like disks cushion the vertebrae of the spine, but they are vulnerable to wear and tear due to ageing or injuries. A bulging or ruptured disk may place pressure on the spinal nerve roots. This is known as a herniated disc and can cause excruciating pain.
Low back pain may be caused by a variety of chronic conditions.
- A narrowing of the space around the spinal cord, known as spinal stenosis, can place pressure on the spinal nerves.
- Ankylosing spondylitis affects the spine's joints, as well as the shoulders, hips, ribs, and other body parts. Chronic back pain and stiffness are the result of this condition. Spinal vertebrae begin to fuse in severe cases (grow together).
- Fibromyalgia is a condition that causes widespread muscle aches, including back pain.
The majority of people first experience back pain in their 30s. As you get older, the chances of having more episodes of back pain increases. Some factors that may be causing your low back pain include:
- Sedentary lifestyle.
- Workplace hazards – lifting heavy objects, long distance driving.
Be precise about explaining the cause of pain, when it began, related symptoms, and any background of chronic illnesses to help the doctor diagnose the source of low back pain. Your doctor is unlikely to request X-rays, CT scans, or MRI scans before beginning treatment, unless they suspect a more sinister root cause of your back pain.
Back pain caused by muscle strain normally improves on its own, although you should take steps to improve your comfort. Warm baths or a heating pad can offer temporary pain relief.
It's understandable if you don't want to get out of bed when your back hurts. If the problem is muscle pain, though, doctors advise that you return to your daily duties as quickly as possible. More than a day or two on bed rest, according to studies, will worsen the pain and reduce muscle tone and flexibility, which overall leads to delayed healing times and poorer outcomes.
There is proof that yoga can help if back pain does not go away after 3 months. People who took 12 weeks of yoga lessons had less back pain than those who got a book on back pain, according to one study. The benefits lasted for a long time. Just ensure you get help from a professional so you don't hurt yourself.
To treat low back pain, chiropractors and certain osteopathic doctors may try to move the joints of your spine. They use their hands to add pressure to bones and surrounding tissues. Since this treatment isn't suitable for everyone, make sure to inform your doctor about all of your symptoms and health issues.
Massage, when combined with exercise and stretching, can help to alleviate chronic low back pain. Patients who did all three were able to walk around more easily and experienced less short- and long-term pain, according to researchers.
Is acupuncture effective in treating back pain? For people with short-term back pain, the evidence is conflicting. Sham acupuncture has the same effect on these people as real acupuncture, according to research. People with chronic or long-term back pain did, nevertheless, improve since undergoing acupuncture treatments in other studies.
Over-the-counter pain relievers like paracetamol, ibuprofen, and naproxen too are effective for mild back pain. Muscle aches can recover from pain-relieving creams, ointments or oils. Your doctor may prescribe medication for severe or chronic pain that is not relieved by the aforementioned over-the-counter treatments.
Your doctor may recommend back injections if other therapies and medications aren't effective. A nerve root block is one procedure that targets irritated nerves. Steroid medication is commonly found in injections for back pain.
You could be a candidate for surgery if long-term back pain is interfering with your everyday life and most treatments have failed to offer relief. A doctor may remove a herniated disc, widen the space around the spinal cord, and/or fuse two spinal vertebrae together, depending on the cause of your pain.
A rehabilitation programme can help you strengthen your muscles and get back to your normal activities if back pain has kept you inactive for a long time. A physical therapist can help you become fitter without straining your back by guiding you through stretches, strength exercises, and low-impact cardio.
Strengthening the Back
Your lower back can benefit from strength training. Flexion exercises include bending forward to stretch and strengthen the back and hip muscles. You lean backward in extension exercises to strengthen the muscles that support the spine. If you're suffering from back pain, consult with your doctor or physical therapist about exercises that are suitable for you.
While there is no surefire way to avoid back pain when you get older, there are certain things you may do to reduce your risk:
- Maintain a healthy body weight.
- Exercise regularly for at least 30 minutes, 5 times a week.
- Lift with your legs instead of your back.
- Make sure your workstation isn't causing you any pain.
Referenced on 14.4.2021
- National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke: “Low Back Pain Fact Sheet."
- American Academy of Family Physicians: “Lower Back Pain."
- National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases: “Back Pain."
- American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons: “Low Back Pain."
- Sherman, K. Archives of Internal Medicine, October 2011.
- Cherkin, D. Annals of Internal Medicine, July 2011.
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- Bratton, R. Am Fam Physician, November 1999.
- Verhagen, AP. Eur Spine J, September 2016.
- Lizhou, L. Evid Based Complement Alternat Med, 2015.