Ways To Ease Low Back Pain
Just because it’s possible to inherit low back pain doesn’t mean the matter is completely out of your control. “It’s how we’re born and how we take care of ourselves,” Wisneski says.
If you sit in an uncomfortable chair all day, work a jackhammer, or regularly twist your body into uncomfortable positions, your lower back will suffer for it. Smoking — the bad habit that increases the risk of dozens of diseases — can also lead to backaches. One study found that smokers are nearly a third more likely to have low back pain compared to nonsmokers.
Try these five tips to prevent or ease lower back pain:
- If you smoke, get help to kick the habit.
- Practice good posture whenever you sit or stand. When lifting something, lift with your knees, not with your back.
- Do exercises to strengthen the muscles that support your back — especially the abdominals, hips, back, and pelvic area. Developing strong core muscles can make a big difference in how you feel. “When my abs are in good shape and I’m well worked out, I’m the least susceptible,” Snyder says.
- Fight the urge to crawl into bed whenever your lower back acts up. “Our bodies are meant to be used,” Wisneski says. “If you have pain, sometimes you develop a âdisease of disuse.â”
- See your doctor and get treated for low back pain early on, so you can stay moving and keep active.
Gunnar Andersson, MD, PhD, professor and chairman emeritus, Department of Orthopedic Surgery, Rush University Medical Center, Chicago.
Maintain Correct Posture When Sitting
You can avoid lower back pain by maintaining proper posture when sitting. If you have a desk job, keep your feet planted on the floor and use a chair that provides lower back support. Also, avoid hunching forward to see your computer screen and reaching far in front of you to use your mouse or keyboard.
Chronic Idiopathic Peripheral Neuropathy
Peripheral neuropathy refers to the feeling of numbness, tingling, and pins-and-needles sensation in the feet. Idiopathic means the cause is not known, and chronic means the condition is ongoing without getting better or worse.
The condition is most often found in people over age 60. Idiopathic neuropathy has no known cause.
Symptoms include uncomfortable numbness and tingling in the feet difficulty standing or walking due to pain and lack of normal sensitivity and weakness and cramping in the muscles of the feet and ankles.
Peripheral neuropathy can greatly interfere with quality of life, so a medical provider should be seen in order to treat the symptoms and reduce the discomfort.
Diagnosis is made through physical examination blood tests to rule out other conditions and neurologic and muscle studies such as electromyography.
Treatment involves over-the-counter pain relievers prescription pain relievers to manage more severe pain physical therapy and safety measures to compensate for loss of sensation in the feet and therapeutic footwear to help with balance and walking.
Top Symptoms: distal numbness, muscle aches, joint stiffness, numbness on both sides of body, loss of muscle mass
Urgency: Primary care doctor
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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 .
. 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
Exercise And Movement Can Prevent And Help Relieve Back Pain
In my experience, people who tend to move more often throughout the day tend to experience less frequent episodes of back pain and often less intense back pain, says Stephens. However, this rule may not apply to people who have more physically demanding jobs that require a lot of lifting, he notes.
Generally, most types of physical activity are somewhat protective in terms of the likelihood of developing back pain and also the prognosis. If someone is habitually physically active, that seems to have some preventive benefit, and if back pain occurs, it helps someone get through it faster, says Stephens.
What kinds of exercise are good for back pain? According to Stephens, all types are good. For a large percentage of people, that could be something as simple as walking daily, he says.
A study published in October 2017 in the Annals of Rehabilitation Medicine looked at the walking habits of 5,982 people age 50 and older, 26 percent of whom reported experiencing lower back pain. Investigators found that the people who walked the most were the least likely to experience back pain.
Whether a person will benefit from specific strengthening exercises for their back depends on the person and the back pain, says Stephens. Check with a physical therapist or your doctor before you begin any new exercise routine, he advises.
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Understanding The Lower Back
The lower back is also called the lumbosacral area of the back. It is the part of the back between the bottom of the ribs and the top of the legs.
Most of the lower back is made up from muscles that attach to, and surround, the spine. The spine is made up of many bones called vertebrae. The vertebrae are roughly circular and between each vertebra is a disc. The discs between the vertebrae are a combination of a strong fibrous outer layer and a softer, gel-like centre. The discs act as shock absorbers and allow the spine to be flexible.
When Is Back Surgery Needed Or Required
Typically, back surgery can be considered a last resort for treating chronic back pain. This is especially true if other non-surgical treatments have remained ineffective. Also, youre attending medical practitioner may also recommend the surgery if they find that your back pain is related to certain spine problems.
For example, you may have to undergo back surgery if the following signs or symptoms are present:
- Weakness in your limbs
- Progressing bladder or bowel problems
- Increased reflexes
However, to ensure back surgery is the proper treatment for your chronic pain, its best to get opinions from, at least, two medical professionals. That way, youll know if surgery is necessary to address your health condition.
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Chronic Conditions That Cause Back Pain
Conditions that can lead to chronic low back pain include spinal stenosis, spondylitis, and fibromyalgia. Spinal stenosis is narrowing of the normal spinal canal through which the spinal cord passes. Spondylitis is chronic inflammation of the spine. Fibromyalgia is a muscle disorder that features chronic muscle pain and tenderness.
Where Can I Get More Information
For more information on neurological disorders or research programs funded by the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, contact the Institute’s Brain Resources and Information Network at:
Office of Communications and Public LiaisonNational Institute of Neurological Disorders and StrokeNational Institutes of HealthBethesda, MD 20892
NINDS health-related material is provided for information purposes only and does not necessarily represent endorsement by or an official position of the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke or any other Federal agency. Advice on the treatment or care of an individual patient should be obtained through consultation with a physician who has examined that patient or is familiar with that patient’s medical history.
All NINDS-prepared information is in the public domain and may be freely copied. Credit to the NINDS or the NIH is appreciated.
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What Research Is Being Done
The mission of the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke is to seek fundamental knowledge of the brain and nervous system and to use that knowledge to reduce the burden of neurological disease. NINDS is a component of the National Institutes of Health , the leading supporter of biomedical research in the world.
As a primary supporter of research on pain and pain mechanisms, NINDS is a member of the NIH Pain Consortium, which was established to promote collaboration among the many NIH Institutes and Centers with research programs and activities addressing pain. On an even broader scale, NIH participates in the Interagency Pain Research Coordinating Committee, a federal advisory committee that coordinates research across other U.S. Department of Health and Human Services agencies as well as the Departments of Defense and Veterans Affairs.
What Are The Treatments For Lower Back Pain
Lower back pain usually gets better with rest, ice and over-the-counter pain relievers. After a few days of rest, you can start to get back to your normal activities. Staying active increases blood flow to the area and helps you heal.
Other treatments for lower back pain depend on the cause. They include:
- Medications: Your provider may recommend nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs or prescription drugs to relieve pain. Other medications relax muscles and prevent back spasms.
- Physical therapy : PT can strengthen muscles so they can support your spine. PT also improves flexibility and helps you avoid another injury.
- Hands-on manipulation: Several hands-on treatments can relax tight muscles, reduce pain and improve posture and alignment. Depending on the cause of pain, you may need osteopathic manipulation or chiropractic adjustments. Massage therapy can also help with back pain relief and restore function.
- Injections: Your provider uses a needle to inject medication into the area thats causing pain. Steroid injections relieve pain and reduce inflammation.
- Surgery: Some injuries and conditions need surgical repair. There are several types of surgery for low back pain, including many minimally invasive techniques.
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What Is The Treatment For Chronic Nonspecific Low Back Pain
Initial treatment is similar to sudden-onset attacks. That is, aim to keep as active as possible. Also, painkillers can help. In addition to the painkillers listed above, your doctor may advise a course of an antidepressant medicine in the tricyclic group – for example, amitriptyline. Tricyclic antidepressants have other actions separate to their action on depression. They are used in a variety of painful conditions, including back pain.
Also, a national guideline , referenced below) recommends one or more of the following treatments should be considered. Each of these treatments has some evidence from research trials to suggest that they will help to ease symptoms in some people :
- Structured exercise programme. This means a programme of exercise supervised by a professional such as a physiotherapist. This is likely to be in a group setting. Exercises may include aerobic activity, movement instruction, muscle strengthening, posture control and stretching. It typically consists of up to eight supervised sessions over 8-12 weeks with encouragement to keep on doing the exercises at home between sessions.
- Manual therapy. Typically this includes several sessions of massage, spinal mobilisation and/or spinal manipulation. With spinal mobilisation the therapist moves the joints of the spine around in their normal movement range. In spinal manipulation, the therapist moves joints beyond the usual range of movement.
- A course of acupuncture. It is not clear how this may work.
Treatment Options For Acute Lower Back Pain
Most low back pain is due to muscle strain and spasm and does not require surgery. To treat the pain, medications such as acetaminophen , nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory agents , gabapentin or pregabalin can be used. NSAIDs suppress inflammation, pain and fever by inhibiting certain inflammation-causing chemicals in the body. Acetaminophen reduces pain and fever, but does not inhibit inflammation. Gabapentin and pregabalin, medications that have been used for antiseizure activity, also have the ability to block pain. Opioids provide pain relief and may at times be prescribed to manage severe back pain. However, opioids have many problems, such as habituation, constipation and lightheadedness, and are avoided when possible and used for the shortest possible duration. Epidural injection is an option if the back pain does not respond to these treatments. Each person is different in terms of response to medication.
Other nonsurgical treatments for lower back pain include Intradiscal electrothermal therapy , nucleoplasty, and radiofrequency lesioning.
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Workouts That Can Cause Low Back Pain
Most athletic injuries to the back are sprains of the ligaments or strains of the muscles surrounding the spine. Serious conditions or complications can have similar symptoms to those of a routine sprain or strain. The most common sports injuries occur after repetitive overuse of the spine either through twisting, compression, or flexion. High impact sports such as running, football, or volleyball can often cause low back pain. Sports like golf, in which repetitive twisting is often involved, can also cause low back pain.
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What Are The Causes Of Lower Back Pain
The vast majority of patients experience back pain because of mechanical reasons. They strain a muscle from heavy lifting or twisting, suffer a sudden jolt in a car accident, experience stress on spinal bones and tissues resulting in a , or suffer from osteoarthritis, a potentially painful degeneration of one or more spinal joints. Common causes for low back pain are:
- mechanical or functional injury
- active infection
- referred pain
To choose the safest and most effective therapy, doctors need to consider the full spectrum of possible underlying issues, such as inflammatory conditions, fracture, infection, as well as some serious conditions unrelated to the back that radiate pain to the back.
Check With Your Doctor About Over
Stephens recommends that people with back pain reach out to their primary care physician to discuss how to safely take NSAID medications such as ibuprofen or naproxen to relieve back pain.
Were very aware of some of the long-term health risks associated with excessive use of NSAIDs. They have a place when it comes to helping manage pain, but a patient needs to follow the advice of their doctor to minimize any negative effects of that medication, says Stephens.
NSAID use can increase the risk for severe or life-threatening gastrointestinal bleeding and ulcers in some people, and taking too much of these drugs can also lead to liver or kidney injury or failure.
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Lower Back Pain Causes
Nonspecific low back pain means that the pain is not due to any specific or underlying disease that can be found. It is thought that in some cases the cause may be an over-stretch of a ligament or muscle. In other cases the cause may be a minor problem with a disc between two spinal bones , or a minor problem with a small facet joint between two vertebrae. There may be other minor problems in the structures and tissues of the lower back that result in pain. However, these causes of the pain are impossible to prove by tests. Therefore, it is usually impossible for a doctor to say exactly where the pain is coming from, or exactly what is causing the pain.
To some people, not knowing the exact cause of the pain is unsettling. However, looked at another way, many people find it reassuring to know that the diagnosis is nonspecific back pain which means there is no serious problem or disease of the back or spine.
What Causes Lower Back Pain
Many injuries, conditions and diseases can cause lower back pain. They include:
- Strains and sprains: Back strains and sprains are the most common cause of back pain. You can injure muscles, tendons or ligaments by lifting something too heavy or not lifting safely. Some people strain their back by sneezing, coughing, twisting or bending over.
- Fractures: The bones in the spine can break during an accident, like a car crash or a fall. Certain conditions increase the risk of fractures.
- Disk problems: Disks cushion the vertebrae . Disks can bulge from their position in the spine and press on a nerve. They can also tear . With age, disks can get flatter and offer less protection .
- Structural problems: A condition called spinal stenosis happens when the spinal column is too narrow for the spinal cord. Something pinching the spinal cord can cause severe sciatic nerve pain and lower back pain. Scoliosis can lead to pain, stiffness and difficulty moving.
- Arthritis: Osteoarthritis is the most common type of arthritis to cause lower back pain. Ankylosing spondylitis causes lower back pain, inflammation and stiffness in the spine.
- Disease:Spine tumors, infections and several types of cancer can cause back pain. Other conditions can cause back pain, too. These include kidney stones and abdominal aortic aneurysm.
- Spondylolisthesis: This condition causes the vertebrae in the spine to slip out of place. Spondylolisthesis leads to low back pain and often leg pain as well.
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