Pain in the lower back is very common. You might have heard many times about it in your own family. It can occur to anybody irrespective of gender. In fact, nearly everyone at some point has back pain that interferes with work, routine daily activities, or recreation. Couple of weeks ago my husband suffered with lower back pain. That was the first time; I watched the condition pretty closer. It was not just pain in lower back but an imbalanced posture that makes condition more panicky. Fortunately, 70% of people who have low back pain get better within two weeks or with full time rest even in a week. Others can take longer to resolve or lead to more serious condition.
I would like to throw some light upon the causes, symptoms and self-care tips of low back pain or lumbago.
Inflammation (swelling) of joints, muscles or discs in the back often cause lower back pain. Physical activities, especially repetitive lifting, bending and twisting can make your lower back pain worse. Poor posture also can worsen lower back pain. Rarely do serious problems, such as infection or other medical conditions, cause lower back pain.
- Acute low back pain: Low back pain that lasts for six weeks or less and does not extend below the knees is called acute low back pain, lumbar muscle strain or backache. Although quite painful, it usually improves after a few days of simple care.
- Acute Sciatica: Acute sciatica is low back pain that lasts for six weeks or less and extends below the knees. It is also called radiculopathy or radiating leg pain. Feeling better usually takes longer than with acute low back pain. Nerve irritation in the lower back often causes sciatica pain.
- Chronic low back pain and sciatica: Back pain and sciatica that lasts longer than six weeks with no significant improvement is considered chronic. Specialized treatment may be needed. Your doctor may refer you to an expert in medical problems that can cause chronic back pain. Usually, these are doctors in rehabilitation or occupational medicine, neurology or neurosurgery, orthopedics and rheumatology.
What are the warning symptoms of lower back pain?
In some situations, your doctor may want to do tests to rule out any uncommon causes for your back pain. Keep your doctor up-to-date on how you are doing. Schedule a follow-up visit one to three weeks after your initial exam, if recommended. Immediately report any of the following symptoms or conditions:
- Unexplained weight loss
- Constant night pain
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- Leg weakness
- Diagnosis low back pain
X-rays usually are not necessary early in treatment. X-rays may be needed for trauma (for example, a fall or car accident), patients older than 50 years or those with other medical problems. X-rays may be ordered for lower back pain lasting more than six weeks. CT or MRI may be used for chronic sciatica pain.
What are the self treatments one can do to ease low back pain?
The following simple recommendations may help to control your pain. Talk to your doctor if you are not getting enough pain relief.
Prolonged bed rest is not necessary for most back problems. In fact, staying in bed for more than two days may increase the pain and stiffness. A 1996 Finnish study found that persons who continued their activities without bed rest following onset of low back pain appeared to have better back flexibility than those who rested in bed for a week. Moderate activity like walking that does not significantly worsen the pain is more helpful.
Ice and Heat
Ice or cold packs can reduce the pain and swelling of a muscle strain or spasm (tightening of the muscle). Use ice or cold packs for 20 minutes three to four times a day during the first few days. To further reduce pain and stiffness, take a hot bath or place a heating pad on your lower back. Continue to use ice if it helps improve the pain.
Anti-inflammatory medicines, such as ibuprofen (Motrin, Advil) or aspirin, can help ease the pain and swelling in the lower back. If these medicines upset your stomach, use acetaminophen (Tylenol) instead. Your doctor also may prescribe muscle relaxants such as Flexural during the first few days to ease muscle spasms. Muscle relaxants, however, often cause drowsiness.
Exercise may be the most effective way to speed recovery from lower back pain and help strengthen back and abdominal muscles. Maintaining and building muscle strength is particularly important for persons with skeletal irregularities. Doctors and physical therapists can provide a list of gentle exercises that can help your muscles move and speed the recovery process.
Physician’s advice is necessary in conditions of lower back pain and before starting any exercise or medication. Regular exercise, walking, right sitting posture can easily prevent you from getting lower back pain in future. In my next post I’ll come up with more natural tips to prevent or cure low back pain.