If you have lower back pain, you are not alone. Nearly everyone at some point has back pain that interferes with work, routine daily activities, or recreation. The most common cause of job-related disability and a leading contributor to missed work is low back pain. Fortunately, most occurrences of low back pain go away within a few days. Others take much longer to resolve or lead to more serious conditions.
Chronic back can persist for more than 3 months and is often progressive. Unfortunately, the cause can be difficult to determine. Recurring back pain result from improper body mechanics or other non-traumatic causes that is often preventable.
Pain from trauma may be caused by a sports injury, housework, a sudden jolt such as a car accident, or other stress on spinal bones and tissues. Pain and work-related injuries are caused or aggravated by stressors such as heavy lifting, vibration, repetitive motion, and awkward posture causing a sprain, strain, or spasm in one of the muscles or ligaments in the back.
If the spine becomes overly strained or compressed, a disc may rupture or bulge outward. This rupture may put pressure on the nerves rooted from the spinal cord that control body movements and transmit signals from the body to the brain. When these nerve roots become compressed or irritated, back pain results.
Most acute back pain is mechanical in nature and follows injury or trauma to the back. Pain may also be caused by degenerative conditions such as arthritis or disc disease, osteoporosis or other bone diseases, viral infections, irritation to joints and discs, or congenital abnormalities in the spine.
Obesity, smoking, stress, poor physical condition, posture inappropriate for the activity being performed, and poor sleeping position also may contribute to low back pain. Additionally, scar tissue created when the injured back heals itself does not have the strength or flexibility of normal tissue. Buildup of scar tissue from repeated injuries eventually weakens the back, which can be serious.
Occasionally, low back pain may indicate a more serious medical problem. Pain accompanied by fever or loss of bowel or bladder control, pain when coughing, and progressive weakness in the legs may indicate pinched nerve or other serious condition.
A thorough medical history and physical exam can usually identify any conditions that may be associated with the pain. The patient describes the onset, site, and severity of the pain; duration of symptoms and any limitations in movement; and history of previous episodes or any health conditions that might be related to the pain. The physician examines the back and conduct neurologic tests to determine the cause of pain and appropriate treatment. Blood tests may also be ordered. Imaging tests may be necessary to diagnose possible sources of the pain.
A variety of diagnostic methods are available to confirm the cause of low back pain and they include X-ray imaging, Discography, Computerized tomography (CT), Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), and Electro-diagnostic procedures include electromyography (EMG)
Acute or short-term low back pain generally lasts from a few days to a few weeks. You can use relaxation techniques and regular exercise to prevent tension and stress to the back muscles. Learn stretching exercises for your back and lower body and stretch every day, especially before and after you exercise. Engage in exercises that don't jolt or strain the back, maintain correct posture, and lift objects properly to prevent injuries. Exercise may be the most effective way to speed recovery from low back pain and help strengthen back and abdominal muscles.
Always use good posture, especially if you sit at a desk all day. Keep your back supported while seated.
Adjust your sleeping positions. Make sure your mattress is firm enough.
Use seat belts to prevent injuries while driving.
Always apply ergonomic principles at home and in the workplace to greatly reduce the risk of back injury and help maintain a healthier back.
When to Contact a Medical Professional
Most patients with back pain recover without residual functional loss, but individuals should contact a doctor if there is not a noticeable reduction in pain and inflammation after 72 hours of self-care.
Seek immediate medical help if you have pain accompanied by fever or loss of bowel or bladder control, and progressive weakness, as all of these symptoms may indicate a serious condition.
A serious complication of a ruptured disc is cauda equina syndrome, which occurs when disc material is pushed into the spinal canal and compresses the bundle of lumbar and sacral nerve roots. Permanent neurological damage may result if this syndrome is left untreated.
Most low back pain can be treated without surgery. The goal of treatment is to restore proper function and strength to the back, and prevent recurrence of the injury.
There are non-surgical treatments for low back pain. Treatment involves using over-the-counter pain medications and prescription drugs relievers to reduce discomfort and anti-inflammatory drugs to reduce inflammation. Patients should always check with a doctor before taking drugs for pain relief.
The use of cold and hot compresses may help reduce pain and inflammation and allow greater mobility for some individuals. Bed rest is recommended for only 1–2 days at most. Individuals should resume activities as soon as possible. Exercise may be the most effective way to speed recovery from low back pain and help strengthen back and abdominal muscles.
In the most serious cases, when the condition does not respond to the above therapies, consider injections or surgery to relieve pain caused by serious injuries.