What Are Some Common Lower Back Pain Causes
The causes of lower back pain are sometimes viewed as being mechanical, organic or idiopathic. Sometimes spinal conditions are congenital or acquired meaning the disorder develops later in life.
- Mechanical lower back pain is often triggered by spinal movement and involves spinal structures, such as the facet joints, intervertebral discs, vertebral bodies , ligaments, muscles or soft tissues.
- Organic lower back pain is attributed to disease, such as spinal cancer.
- Idiopathic refers to an unknown cause.
These are some of the things your doctor might look for or rule out when you schedule a visit for back pain.
The common symptoms of lower back pain.
Sprains and strains. Ligament sprains and muscle or tendon strains are the most common causes of lower back pain. Theyre often related to overuse.
Degenerative disc disease. While the name sounds worrisome, it just means you have a damaged disc causing pain. Over time, discs become thinner and flatter due to wear and tear. That leaves them less able to cushion the vertebrae and more likely to tear .
Herniated disc. The protective covering on intervertebral discs can tear over time. When this happens, the soft inner disc tissue may push through the outer layer. A disc that bulges or slips out of place is known as a herniated disc, bulging disc, or slipped disc. The herniation may press on nerve roots, leading to symptoms such as pain, tingling, numbness or weakness in the area that the nerve serves
How To Sleep Better With Lower Back Pain
Getting quality sleep is an important part of recovering from lower back pain, but sleeping well may seem like a tall task when your back hurts. While theres no guaranteed way to get better sleep, certain practical tips can help:
- Find a supportive sleeping position. Ideally, you can sleep on your side, but regardless of the position, make sure your spine is well-aligned. If needed, use extra pillows for body support.
- Be careful with alcohol and caffeine. Though alcohol may help you doze off, it can throw off the quality of your sleep. As a stimulant, caffeine can make it harder to fall asleep and stay asleep.
- Try relaxation methods. Finding techniques to wind down can put you in the right state of mind for sleep with less focus on pain.
- Reduce potential sleep disruptions. If you inadvertently wake up at night, pain may make it harder to get back to sleep. For that reason, try to eliminate excess noise and light from your bedroom or block them out with a sleep mask or earplugs. Set your bedroom to a temperature that will be comfortable throughout the night.
Focusing on sleep hygiene can improve your sleep habits so that you can sleep better both during and after episodes of lower back pain.
Find Relief Through Ice And Heat
Break out that bag of frozen peas for the first 48 hours after the pain sets in, and put it to use for 20 minutes a session, several sessions per day. After those two days are behind you, switch to 20-minute intervals with a heating pad.
Localized cooling shuts down capillaries and reduces blood flow to the area, which helps ease the swelling, says Lisa DeStefano, DO, an associate professor at Michigan State Universitys College of Osteopathic Medicine in East Lansing. Cold also thwarts your nerves ability to conduct pain signals. Heat, on the other hand, loosens tight muscles and increases circulation, bringing extra oxygen to the rescue.
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Losing Weight For Back Pain Relief
It’s only natural to assume that, along with controlling your risk for heart attack, diabetes, stroke and other degenerative diseases, losing weight can help you get rid of back pain.
Experts agree that losing weight successfully may result in partial or complete back pain relief. Dr. Andre Panagos, physiatrist and director of Spine and Sports Medicine in New York notes, “every single patient in my clinic who loses a significant amount of weight finds their pain to be vastly improved.”
The reason for this, Panagos explains, is that if you are heavier than your ideal weight, your muscles will need to work harder in order to help you accomplish everyday tasks. Plus, the extra load that is put on the spine can take vertebrae out of alignment, which may lead to joint strainanother potential cause of pain.
“When you lose weight, you are effectively reducing strain on your spinal column and back muscles,” Panagos adds.
Exercise To Loosen Muscles
Although it may seem counterintuitive to exercise when lower back pain is causing you grief, the right kind of movement can help eliminate the discomfort. Its always important to consult your physician before you engage in exercise when you have pain, but this conversation is well worth having if youre suffering.
First, you should keep in mind that not all exercise is beneficial in combating back pain. Try to avoid toe-touch exercises and sit-ups, which may add to the stress on your spine instead of relieving it. Leg lifts are another exercise to stay away from when you are hurting. If your core is not strong, leg lifts could be too demanding on your body if youre already experiencing pain.
Several types of exercises can be useful when you need to relieve back pain. Partial crunches can aid in strengthening your core without applying too much pressure to the area. Slow and controlled wall-sit exercises may also be useful. Other repetitions to consider include bringing each knee to the chest in succession, pelvic tilts, and swimming.
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Best Superfoods & Herbs For Back Inflammation
The #1 food for lower back inflammation pain is by far Turmeric. It can actually replace your NSAIDs all together and is fully backed by thousands of studies.
You can take Turmeric in standardized capsules or you can easily add it to your meals.
If you want it to be fully potent, add just a little black pepper and healthy fat to make it most bioavailable.
If you dont like the taste of Turmeric, you can add it to your green smoothie .
If you add a banana in there, or a few dates, you wont feel the taste at all.
Always use organic Turmeric to avoid nasty chemicals.
Not only is ginger a culinary marvel, but its health benefits are also stunning.
Ginger has some extremely potent anti-inflammation compounds, called gingerols.
There are many studies proving how effective ginger can be in the fight against inflammation when consumed regularly.
Studies have found that Ginger has the ability to inhibit nitrous oxide and is helpful for all general inflammatory processes.
The best way to use Ginger would be adding it fresh to your meals or your green smoothies . You can find fresh organic ginger root powder here.
3. Fish Oil
Fish oil can effectively ease inflammation and pain caused by many chronic conditions. The dose used in most convincing research is 2 to 4 grams of DHA + EPA daily.
Make sure to get fish oil from organic-raised fish, without additives and clean from heavy metals and toxins, like this one.
Do Morning Stretches In Bed
Simple stretching exercises can relieve back pain, and there are stretches you can do before you get out of bed.
For example, you can lie on your back and do a full-body stretch when you first wake up. For this exercise, stretch your arms and hands above your head as far as you can, with your legs and feet stretching in the opposite direction. Hold for a few seconds before releasing.
It may also help to stretch out your lower back. To do this, you can bring your knees into your chest and hold, wrapping your arms around them. Then gently rock from side to side.
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More Advanced Care Options
Surgery When other therapies fail, surgery may be considered to relieve pain caused by worsening nerve damage, serious musculoskeletal injuries, or nerve compression. Specific surgeries are selected for specific conditions/indications. However, surgery is not always successful. It may be months following surgery before the person is fully healed and there may be permanent loss of flexibility. Surgical options include:
Implanted nerve stimulators
- Spinal cord stimulation uses low-voltage electrical impulses from a small implanted device that is connected to a wire that runs along the spinal cord. The impulses are designed to block pain signals that are normally sent to the brain.
- Dorsal root ganglion stimulation also involves electrical signals sent along a wire connected to a small device that is implanted into the lower back. It specifically targets the nerve fibers that transmit pain signals. The impulses are designed to replace pain signals with a less painful numbing or tingling sensation.
- Peripheral nerve stimulation also uses a small implanted device and an electrode to generate and send electrical pulses that create a tingling sensation to provide pain relief.
What Are Some Other Causes Of Lower Back Pain
The shape of your spine, and well as spinal diseases, are other culprits in lower back pain. Depending on a range of factors, your doctor may look for:
Abnormal spinal curvature. A normal spine resembles a gently curved letter S when seen from the side. Abnormal curves include:
- Lordosis, in which the spine curves too far inward at the lower back
- Kyphosis, in which the spine is abnormally rounded in the upper back
- Scoliosis, in which the spine curves from side to side, often in a C shape
Normal and abnormal curves of the spineArthritis. There are more than 100 types of arthritis, many of which can cause lower back pain. The most common types include osteoarthritis , rheumatoid arthritis, and ankylosing spondylitis.
Cauda equina syndrome . Compression of the bundle of nerves that forms below the spinal cord in the lumbar spine. It is a rare but serious disorder that requires immediate medical attention and possibly emergency surgery. CES got its name from the fact that the fanned-out bundle of nerves resembles the base of a horses tail.
Discitis or osteomyelitis.Both infections of discs and bone can cause severe pain and require prompt medical attention.
Spinal tumors. When cells divide and multiply unchecked, the result is a tumor. Both benign and malignant tumors can cause lower back pain. They can either originate in the spine or metastasize there, meaning theyve spread from somewhere else in the body.
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Strength Flexibility And Back Pain
It’s well-known that strengthening and stretching trunk muscles and muscles around the hips provides support for upright body posture and for the spine itself. Regular practice of yoga, Pilates or other mind-body workouts can help you do just that. These types of programs help develop balanced strength in the muscles that control the pelvis and trunk. This, in turn, can protect your back by facilitating an even wear and tear on your joints and by taking the load off your spine. See above for a few ideas.
Sleep On A Quality Mattress
Lower back pain sufferers usually benefit from sleeping on a medium-firm mattress. However, your preferred sleep position also should influence your mattress selection. To maintain good posture, side sleepers should select a softer mattress. Back and stomach sleepers should choose a firmer mattress. If you have lower back pain, its a good idea to avoid sleeping on your stomach altogether.
If your lower back pain doesnt improve after 4 to 6 weeks of home care using these suggestions, you should see your doctor. You also should contact your doctor right away if you have any red flags, including:
- A history of cancer or a recent infection
- A recent fall or other accident
- Extreme fatigue
- Signs of infection, such as fever, chills, sweats
- Nerve problems, such as shooting pain, numbness or tingling
- Changes in bowel or bladder function
Other options for treating lower back pain may include physical therapy, pain management with cortisone injections or, in certain cases, surgery. Although lower back surgery can be beneficial for patients who are experiencing nerve problems and injured discs, its not typically recommended for patients with other types of lower back pain.
Download the Virtua Health Guide to Back Pain, or call to request a consultation with a Virtua back pain specialist.
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How You Can Trim Your Waistline To Help Your Lower Back Pain
The source of countless health problems is excess abdominal fat, and so it is with lower back problems. The culprit is visceral abdominal fat that lies beneath the layer of muscle and surrounds the organs.
Men tend to store more visceral abdominal fat than women, which is why men are more prone to lower back problems. But after menopause, the hormonal shift in women favors storage of deep abdominal fat, which means increased risk of lower back problems.
The good news about deep abdominal fat is that it can be easily dislodged from storage and used as fuel. Simply do the right things with your diet and get lots of exercise and your waistline will respond.
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What Should I Know About Back Pain
Back pain is a very common problem and will affect many of us at some point during our lives.
The good news is that in most cases it isnt a serious problem, and it might just be caused by a simple strain to a muscle or ligament.
As far as possible, its best to continue with your normal everyday activities as soon as you can and to keep moving.
Being active and exercising wont make your back pain worse, even if you have a bit of pain and discomfort at first. Staying active will help you get better. Taking painkillers can help you do this.
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Injections For Low Back Pain Relief
Epidural steroid injections are a commonly used short-term choice for treating low back pain and sciatica. These injections work by reducing inflammation to relieve pain. Injections are intended for short-term use and should not be utilized for an extended period of time as they may worsen pain in the long run.
For those with chronic pain or sever spinal injury, a nerve block may be utilized to prevent nerve conduction in a certain area. This essentially blocks all feeling from nerves. Nerve blocks are typically only used in extreme cases of severe pain.
Maintain Correct Posture During Activities
To protect your lower back from injury, its important to maintain proper posture when performing physical activitiesespecially if you play sports or have a job that requires repetitive motions. Avoid slouching as much as possible and aim to keep your spine erect. When lifting, bend and straighten from the knees, not the waist. And be sure to move your hips when twisting from side to side.
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How Is Lower Back Pain Diagnosed
Your provider will ask about your symptoms and do a physical exam. To check for broken bones or other damage, your provider may order imaging studies. These studies help your provider see clear pictures of your vertebrae, disks, muscles, ligaments and tendons.
Your provider may order:
- Spine X-ray, which uses radiation to produce images of bones.
- MRI, which uses a magnet and radio waves to create pictures of bones, muscles, tendons and other soft tissues.
- CT scan, which uses X-rays and a computer to create 3D images of bones and soft tissues.
Electromyography to test nerves and muscles and check for neuropathy , which can cause tingling or numbness in your legs.
Depending on the cause of pain, your provider may also order blood tests or urine tests. Blood tests can detect genetic markers for some conditions that cause back pain . Urine tests check for kidney stones, which cause pain in the flank .
Visit A Good Chiropractor
Visiting a trusted chiropractor is very effective for acute back or neck pain, the type of sudden injury that results from moving furniture or getting tackled or doing a wrong movement.
Chiropractic treatments are also used as a pain relief alternative for muscles, joints, bones, and connective tissue, such as cartilage, ligaments, and tendons, and is sometimes used in conjunction with conventional medical treatment.
I had in the past several issues with joint movements that pinched a nerve and caused me acute back pain in which I could barely move. Visiting my chiropractor was the first step I did in these cases, and it helped me tremendously.
Chiropractors use hands-on spinal manipulation to align the bodys musculoskeletal structure, particularly the spine. In some cases, these treatments enable the body to heal itself without surgery or medication.
The manipulation done by the chiropractor is used to restore mobility to joints restricted by tissue injury caused by a traumatic event, such as falling, or repetitive stress, such as sitting without proper back support. The treatment plan may involve one or more manual adjustments in which the chiropractor manipulates the joints, using a controlled, sudden force to improve range and quality of motion. Many chiropractors also include exercise/rehabilitation into the treatment plan.
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Exercise Programs For Weight Loss And Back Pain
A 2016 study found that sticking with a general exercise program may help you reduce chronic non-specific low back pain. Such a program might include strength training, stretching and aerobic activity. The study authors say that developing flexibility may help improve functional movement, and aerobic activity may increase blood flow and nutrients that go to the soft tissues of the body. This, in turn, may help reduce back stiffness.
And don’t forget your core. The researchers say that a strong core plays an important role in support of the low back.