Low back pain

Low back pain

Most low back pain is because of an injury, such as muscle sprains or strains due to instant movements or poor body mechanics while lifting heavy objects.

Low back pain can also results due to certain diseases, such as:

  • spine infections
  • kidney infections
  • arthritis
  • sciatica
  • herniated disc or a ruptured
  • spinal cord cancer

Acute back pain can last anywhere between a few days to a few weeks, on the other hand, chronic back pain can last longer than 3 months.

Low back pain mostly occurs in individuals between the ages of 30 and 50. This is somewhat due to the changes that happen in the body with aging. As you grow older, there’s a depletion in the fluid content between the vertebrae in the spine.

This means discs in the spine feel irritation more easily. You also lose some muscle tone, which makes the back more vulnerable to injury. In preventing low back pain strengthening your back muscles and using good body mechanics is really helpful.

Causes of low back pain?

Strains

Due to excess activity, the muscles and ligaments in the back can stretch or tear. Symptoms can be pain and stiffness in the lower back, as well as muscle spasms. Physical therapy and rest are remedies for these symptoms.

Disc injury

The discs in the back are vulnerable to injury. With age this risk increases. Outside of the disc can tear or herniate.

A herniated disc, which is also known as a slipped or ruptured disc, happens when the cartilage around the disc pushes counter the spinal cord or nerve roots. The cushion that is between the spinal vertebrae expands outside its normal position.

This can bring compression of the nerve root as it exits from the spinal cord and through the vertebral bones. Disc injury generally happens just after lifting something or twisting the back. Pain from a disc injury generally lasts for more than 72 hours.

Sciatica

Sciatica can happen with a herniated disc if the disc presses on the sciatic nerve. The sciatic nerve does connect the spine to the legs. Due to that, sciatica can cause pain in the feet and legs. This pain generally feels like burning, or pins and needles.

Spinal stenosis

Spinal stenosis happens when the spinal column narrows, putting pressure on the spinal nerves and spinal cord.

Spinal stenosis is usually due to the degeneration of the discs between the vertebrae. The result is compression of the spinal cord or nerve roots by bony spurs or soft tissues, such as discs.

Pressure on the spinal nerves causes symptoms like:

  • weakness
  • cramping
  • numbness

You might experience these symptoms anywhere in your body. Most people with spinal stenosis notice their symptoms worsen when walking or standing.

Abnormal spine curvatures

Scoliosis, lordosis, and kyphosis are all conditions that result in abnormal curvatures in the spine.

These are congenital conditions that are usually first diagnosed during childhood or adolescence. The abnormal curvature causes pain and poor posture because it places pressure on:

  • muscles
  • vertebrae
  • ligaments
  • tendons

Other conditions

There are a number of other conditions that result in lower back pain. These conditions include:

  • Arthritis - an inflammation of the joints.
  • Spondylosis - A degenerative disorder that may cause loss of normal spinal structure and function. Although aging is the primary cause of the condition, the location and rate of degeneration is specific to the individual.
  • Spondylitis - Inflammation of the joints between the spinal bones.
  • Fibromyalgia - long-term pain and tenderness in the joints, tendons, and muscles.

Additional health conditions that can result in lower back pain include:

  • cancer
  • uterine fibroids
  • ovarian cysts
  • endometriosis
  • pregnancy

How to prevent low back pain?

There are many different ways to mitigate low back pain. Practicing prevention techniques may also help reduce the severity of your symptoms if you have any lower back injury.

Prevention includes:

  • maintaining proper posture
  • lifting items properly by lifting with the legs and bending at the knees
  • if you’re overweight losing weight
  • exercising the muscles in your back and abdomen.

Some other precautions:

  • Don't use high-heeled shoes
  • If you smoke, quit smoking.
  • Nicotine reduces blood flow and also causes degeneration of spinal discs.
  • sit on supportive chairs with the correct height
  • Use a firm surface while sleeping

How physical therapy can help?

Your doctor might prescribe physical therapy, including:

  • strengthening exercises
  • stretching
  • massage
  • spinal and back manipulation

For some severe cases, surgery might be necessary. Surgery is generally only an option when all other treatments fail. If there is bladder control or a loss of bowel or a progressive neurological loss, surgery becomes an emergency option.

Home self-care

  • Self-care methods can be helpful for the first 3 days after the pain begins. If the pain doesn’t improve after 3 days of home treatment, you should consult your doctor.
  • Don't do your normal physical activities for a couple of days and apply ice on your lower back. Doctors usually recommend using ice for the first 2 to 3 days, then switching to heat.
  • Rest, ice, compression, and elevation (REST protocol) are recommended within the first 2 days.
  • Take over-the-counter pain medication to reduce pain.

Sometimes lying on your back result in more discomfort. If so, try lying on your side with a pillow between your legs and your knees bent. If you can lie comfortably on your back, place a pillow or rolled-up towel beneath your thighs to lessen the pressure on your lower back.

A massage or a warm bath can often relax stiff and knotted muscles in your back.