Low back pain
Lower back pain? We got your ‘back’ !
Nearly everyone will experience some form of back pain in his or her lifetime. The low back is the area behind the belly from the rib cage to the pelvis and is also called the lumbar region. Back pain is a major cause of missed work. Low back pain usually resolves on its own and is commonly the result of a strain injury.
While back pain can be frustrating and debilitating, the upside is that the majority of episodes of back pain improve or resolve with minimal care, and usually within a few weeks.
Lower back pain can be acute, subacute or chronic.
Lower back pain can be categorized as acute, subacute or chronic. Acute episodes of lower back pain usually last from a few days to 4 weeks and subacute lower back pain lasts between 4 to 12 weeks.2 However, according to the National Institutes of Health, about 20 percent of people with acute back pain go on to develop chronic back pain—defined as pain that lasts 12 weeks or longer.3 Even in these cases, there are many different treatment options to help relieve lower back pain symptoms.
Sometimes lower back pain can be severe causing worry. However, severe pain is not always an indication something is seriously wrong.
What cases lower back pain?
There are multiple potential causes for back pain. Here are some of the more common causes:
- Sprains and strains are a common cause of lower back pain. A sprain occurs when a person overstretches or tears a ligament, while doing the same to a tendon or muscle causes a strain. Back sprains and strains can result from overuse, sports injuries, twisting awkwardly, or lifting something too heavy or improperly.
- Intervertebral disc degeneration which occurs when the usually rubbery discs wear down as a normal process of aging and lose their cushioning ability.
- Spondylosis the general degeneration of the spine associated with normal wear and tear that occurs in the joints, discs, and bones of the spine as people get older.
- Arthritis or other inflammatory disease in the spine, including osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis as well as spondylitis, an inflammation of the vertebrae.
- Sciatica (also called radiculopathy), caused by something pressing on the sciatic nerve that travels through the buttocks and extends down the back of the leg. People with sciatica may feel shock-like or burning low back pain combined with pain through the buttocks and down one leg.
- Spinal stenosis, the narrowing of the spinal column that puts pressure on the spinal cord and nerves
- Spondylolisthesis, which happens when a vertebra of the lower spine slips out of place, pinching the nerves exiting the spinal column
- Psychosocial factors, such as depression, anxiety, work environment,family
What can I do if I am experiencing acute lower back pain?
Acute back pain is usually treated with:
- Medications designed to relieve pain and/or inflammation -non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as ibuprofen and naproxen -muscle relaxants are prescription drugs that are used on a short-term basis to relax tight muscles
- Topical pain relief such as creams, gels, patches, or sprays applied to the skin stimulate the nerves in the skin to provide feelings of warmth or cold in order to dull the sensation of pain.
- Heat and/or ice may help ease pain, reduce inflammation, and improve mobility for some people
- Gentle stretching (not vigorous exercise) upon advice by your healthcare professional
What can I do if I have chronic low back pain?
The longer symptoms linger, the harder it becomes to treat. Staying active is important, and bed rest should be avoided. If your pain is chronic, do not fear, physiotherapy may be recommended to manage your lower back pain.
Based on your examination by physiotherapist, the best treatment options for chronic low back pain are:
- Manual therapy (hands-on mobilization of the joints in your back). Physiotherapists skilled in manual therapy use precise hands-on techniques to relieve stiffness and improve movement of the joints and muscles of your spine.
- Movement exercises that restore motion, re-correcting your posture and decrease radiating or referred pain. Chronic low back pain is best managed with exercises
- Progressive strengthening exercises that focuses on core stability and endurance.
Waiting’ it out will reduce symptoms, but may not actually fix the reason you got back pain in the first place. That is why it is always important to be assessed by a physiotherapist before attempting to manage back pain yourself. A detailed assessment noting the type of pain, how it occurred, what makes it better and what makes it worse will allow the physiotherapist to prescribe the right treatment option for you.