Lower Back Pain

Lower back pain is a very common issue that happens to almost everyone at least once during their lifetime. Here we are discussing the possible causes of it, its symptoms, and diagnosis and treatment options.

Last Updated: Oct 22, 2020 11:29 GMT

Lower Back Pain
Lower Back Pain
What is low back pain?

Lower back pain is the most common cause of disability and almost 80% of Americans have at least one episode during their lifetime. The lumbar spine or the lower back is a highly organized structure interconnecting bones, joints, nerves, ligaments, and muscles. The pivotal function of this lumbar spine is to provide support, strength, flexibility and protection of certain body tissues.

Lower back pain happens as a result of injury, sprains, poor body postures and not taking enough care while lifting heavy objects. Low back pain is common in the age group of 30 to 50, as changes can happen during the process of aging. Moreover the other reason could be reduction in the fluid content between the vertebrae in the spine. Also the disc in the spine is prone to irritation and there can be a reduction in the muscle tone.

Symptoms

Lower back pain can be mild, moderate or severe.  You could notice the following symptoms.

·         Muscle ache

·         Muscle spasms and tightness in the low back, pelvis, and hips

·         Pain that radiates from the low back to thighs, lower legs or feet

·         A worsening pain after prolonged sitting or standing

·         Feeling difficulty in certain activities like bending, standing straight, walking, or changing the position from standing to sitting

·         Pain that improves with reclining

Seek medical attention if your back pain causes new bowel or bladder problems, accompanied by fever and unexplained weight loss.

Causes

Lower back pain can lasts from a few days to a few weeks. Some of the causes of lower back pain is discussed here.

·         Muscle or ligament strain: The back muscle and spinal ligaments are prone to strain if you lift a heavy object or do a sudden awkward movement.

·         Disc Injury:  Discs act like cushions between the bones in your spine. As the age increases, the discs are prone to injury. Sometimes the outside of the disc can herniate or tear. A herniated disc can happen when the cartilage surrounding the disc pushes against the spinal cord or nerve roots. As a result the cushion which sits between the spinal vertebrae extends outside its normal position. The pain that is due to a herniated disc can last for up to 72 hours.

·          Spinal Stenosis: This condition happens when there is pain due to narrowing of spinal cord that puts extra pressure on the spinal cord and spinal nerves. This condition usually occurs due to degeneration of the discs between the vertebrae. The pressure on the spinal nerves causes numbness, cramping and weakness in the body.

·         Abnormal spine curvatures: Some congenital conditions like scoliosis, kyphosis and lordosis can cause abnormal curvatures in the spine. As it places pressure on muscles, tendons, ligaments and vertebrae, this abnormal curvatures causes pain and poor posture.

·         The other causes of lower back pain can be osteoarthritis, spondylitis, spondylosis, fibromyalgia, kidney problems, endometriosis and cancer.

 

Back pain during pregnancy

Most women complain of back pain during the earlier stages of pregnancy. The following are the causes of back pain during pregnancy.

Hormone release: During pregnancy, your body releases hormones that aid ligaments and joints in your pelvis to soften and loosen. These hormones are important during the labor that helps deliver your baby. As these hormones travel throughout the body, you may have aches and pains.

Stress: Stress can be a contributor of low back ache. Your hormonal changes, mood swings, personal and professional life balance, anxiety during pregnancy can stress you.

Change in center of gravity: As your belly gets bigger during later stages of pregnancy, your center of gravity shifts forward. You may have changes in the posture that results in low back pain.

Weight gain: Your back should support the growing weight of the baby, which can strain the muscles.

Following a proper posture, engaging in physical activities and doing simple massaging can help relieve from this lower back pain that happens during pregnancy.

Diagnosis

Your doctor will examine your back pain and determine how much you are able to do your routine activities. If you have a constant pain, he will evaluate where the pain starts from and whether it radiates. Based on your symptoms, a couple of investigations will be required.

To check for problems that can happen in bone, disc, ligaments and tendons imaging studies like x-rays, CT scan, ultrasounds and MRI will be performed. The strength of the bones is tested by a bone scan or bone density test. Problems related with nerves are identified by electromyography.

Treatment

Mild back pain resolves on its own or by following some home treatments. You can use alternate ice and heat to relax the muscles. Rest, Ice, Compression and Elevation (RICE) is recommended for the first 48 hours. If the pain does not subside after 72 hours, a doctor consultation is necessary.

·         Over the counter pain relievers can help reduce the pain.

·         If the pain does not subside with pain relievers, muscle relaxants can help.

·         Topical pain relievers can be used at the site of your pain.

·         Administration of steroid injection can help to relieve pain.

·         Sometimes physical therapy is necessary that involves strengthening and stretching exercises.

·         In rare cases, a surgery may be required.

Prevention

Practicing proper body mechanics and maintaining optimum physical condition can help prevent lower back pain.

·         Practice regular aerobic activities that will help in increasing the strength of your back.

·         Lift heavy items with caution and proper care

·         Maintain a healthy weight

·         Take care of your body postures

·         Quit smoking

·         Sleep on a firm surface

 

·         Sit on supportive chairs that suits your height

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