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How To Help Lower Back Pain

How Common Is Lower Back Pain

Quick Lower Back Pain Relief With 3 Easy Steps

Around four out of five people have lower back pain at some point in their lives. Its one of the most common reasons people visit healthcare providers.

Some people are more likely to have lower back pain than others. Risk factors for lower back pain include:

  • Age: People over 30 have more back pain. Disks wear away with age. As the disks weaken and wear down, pain and stiffness can result.
  • Weight: People who are obese or carry extra weight are more likely to have back pain. Excess weight puts pressure on joints and disks.
  • Overall health: Weakened abdominal muscles cant support the spine, which can lead to back strains and sprains. People who smoke, drink alcohol excessively or live a sedentary lifestyle have a higher risk of back pain.
  • Occupation and lifestyle: Jobs and activities that require heavy lifting or bending can increase the risk of a back injury.
  • Structural problems: Severe back pain can result from conditions, such as scoliosis, that change spine alignment.
  • Disease: People who have a family history of osteoarthritis, certain types of cancer and other disease have a higher risk of low back pain.
  • Mental health: Back pain can result from depression and anxiety.

So What Exactly Is Lower Back Pain

Lower back pain is one of the most common health problems among adults worldwide, and one of the most prevalent causes of job-related disability: It affects 80% of the population at least once throughout their lifetime, according to studies in JAMA and Rheumatology International.1,2

While many people will only experience acute pain that lasts for two to six weeks, about one in five people will develop chronic back pain, which is defined as pain that lasts for more than 12 weeks, says the National Institute for Neurological Disorders and Stroke.3

Not only is low back pain the number one cause of activity limitation in adults younger than 45 years of age,4 but it is also the fifth most frequent reason people seek out medical care in the United States.5

Lower back pain has several causes, and it can also affect different areas of your anatomy, ranging from the spine itself to the muscles surrounding the spine.

It can be left-sided or right-sided or affect the entire area. The amount and types of physical activity you engage in, as well as your general health and physicality, are all factors that can determine the likelihood of developing a lower back injury or lower back pain.

Lower back sprains and strains 6 can be caused by something as simple as shoveling snow, doing yard work, or starting a new exercise routine. Usually, it is a twisting motion, overuse, or improper lifting that leads to a lower back sprain or strain.

Treating Lower Back Pain: How Much Bed Rest Is Too Much

Back pain is one of the most common reasons why people visit a health care provider. The good news is that the pain often goes away on its own, and people usually recover in a week or two. Many people want to stay in bed when their back hurts. For many years, getting bed rest was the normal advice. But current studies recommend no bed rest at all and stress that staying in bed longer than 48 hours not only wont help but it may, in fact, actually delay your recovery. Heres why:

Staying in bed wont help you get better faster.If youre in terrible pain, lying down for a day to help ease the distress may seem like a good idea, but moderating your activities and staying active in a limited way is a more effective way to control your symptoms. Research suggests that if you can find comfortable positions and keep moving, you may not need bed rest at all.Research shows that:

  • Lying down longer than a day or two day isnt helpful for relieving back pain.
  • People can recover more quickly without any bed rest.
  • The sooner you start moving, even a little bit, or return to activities such as walking, the faster you are likely to improve.

Who needs bed rest?Almost no one! The only people who might require time in bed are those with unstable spinal fractures awaiting surgery.

When should I see a health care provider?You should see your health care provider right away if:

  • Heat or ice
  • Ultrasound
  • Manipulation

Check with your health care provider before starting an exercise program.

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When Should I See A Doctor If I Have Lower Back Pain

In many cases lower back pain stops on its own. But if it doesnt, here are some guidelines on when you may want to start seeking professional help:

  • If the pain lasts four weeks or longer
  • If the pain keeps getting worse as time goes by
  • If you are experiencing other symptoms, such as fever, major weight loss or weight gain, loss of function or weakness in extremities, bladder problems, etc.

Whats The Best Position For Sleeping

7 Ways to Relieve Back Pain Naturally

The best way to sleep is on your side with your knees bent. You may put a pillow under your head to support your neck. You also may put a pillow between your knees for added comfort. If you sleep on your back, put pillows under your knees and a small pillow under your lower back. Dont sleep on your stomach unless you put a pillow under your hips.

Use a firm mattress. If your mattress is too soft, put a 1/2-inch plywood board under the mattress to add support.

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Stretch #4 Hamstring Stretch

The hamstring stretch is a great exercise to do at home. The reason the hamstrings need to be stretched when lower back pain is present is that the hamstring attaches to the pelvis. If these muscles are tight of experiencing tone they can affect the position of the pelvis which can be related to low back pain. If the pelvis is tilted by the hamstrings over time that position may produce symptoms further up the spine.

These areas are related through a system called the posterior chain. The posterior chain is all of the muscle from the back of the ankle to the back of the head of the posterior, or back side of the body.

This system works together to regulate anterior, or forward movements of the body. If these muscles are tight or weak that can be a source of issues for the spine.

Stretching the hamstrings can be done several ways, but laying on your back with both knees bent and feet flat is a great starting point.

Once in that position, lift one leg straight up in the air leaving a slight bend in the stretching legâs knee and move that leg closer to your body. There will be a sensation of stretch in the hamstrings between the bottom of the glute and back of the knee. You can use a towel of some sorts if you find that useful.

Injections And Other Procedures

Depending on the source of your pain for example, if you have sciatica epidural injections may be helpful. Injections in the spine arent recommended for non-specific lower back pain though. If your back pain is chronic and other treatments havent helped, there is a procedure called radiofrequency denervation that uses a needle to treat the pain. This is only suitable for some people and you may need to have other tests beforehand. Speak to your specialist for advice.

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Lower Back Pain: What Could It Be

Do you have lower back pain? You are not alone. Anyone can experience lower back pain at any time, even if you dont have a prior injury or any of the risk factors. It is not always serious and can often get better on its own. But in some cases pain is your bodys way of telling you that something isnt right.

Learn more about lower back pain and what causes it from rehabilitation physician Akhil Chhatre, M.D., who specializes in back pain in the Johns Hopkins Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation.

What Does It Mean If Lower Back Pain Is Shooting Into Legs

How to Fix Lower Back Pain off to the Side

Lower back pain can radiate to other parts of the body: up or down from its place of origin. Sometimes lower back pain can be on one side of the back, which is also normal.

If the pain is shooting from the lower back into one or both legs, it could be sciatica , but its not always the case. There are many parts in the lower back that may cause the pain to radiate into the legs, such as facet joints, sacroiliac joints, muscles or inflammation of the bursa.

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Having Those Hard Conversations

When low back pain affects your work life, home life, and then some, its not usually possible to keep your pain to yourself. Sitting down with those close to you and having a frank conversation will let them know what youre going through and why you may not be able to participate in everything thats expected of you. Not having to hide your condition can mean one less thing to stress over.

These hard conversations can benefit you in another way. Compassion and validation from loved ones, friends, and coworkers can help you feel better when youre living with chronic lower back pain. But it needs to be the right kind of help. Studies show that being around people who encourage catastrophizing or rumination can worsen any feelings of helplessness or depression you may have because of your pain.24,25

On the other hand, if you have positive social support from friends and family, youre likely to experience less anxiety and depression. Problem is, many people living with pain feel that their loved ones dont grasp the extent of their pain or arent there for them. Even though it might seem like another hurdle for you, try taking the time to educate those closest to you about your condition.

Less Common Causes Of Low Back Pain

Inflammation of the joints of the spine sometimes causes back pain. Osteoarthritis is the common form of arthritis and usually occurs in older people. Ankylosing spondylitis is another form of arthritis that can occur in young adults and which causes pain and stiffness in the lower back. Rheumatoid arthritis may affect the spine but you are likely to have other joints affected too.

Various uncommon bone disorders, tumours, infection and pressure from structures near to the spine occasionally cause low back pain .

The rest of this leaflet is mainly about nonspecific low back pain – the common type of low back pain.

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What Structures Make Up The Back

The lower backwhere most back pain occursincludes the five vertebrae in the lumbar region, which supports much of the weight of the upper body. The spaces between the vertebrae are maintained by round, rubbery pads called intervertebral discs that act like shock absorbers throughout the spinal column to cushion the bones as the body moves. Bands of tissue known as ligaments hold the vertebrae in place, and tendons attach the muscles to the spinal column. Thirty-one pairs of nerves are rooted to the spinal cord and they control body movements and transmit signals from the body to the brain.

Other regions of vertebrate are cervical , thoracic , and sacral and coccygeal segments.

Nonspecific Low Back Pain

Lower Back Pain? 6 Stretches To Help

This is the most common type of back pain. The majority of cases of sudden-onset low back pain are classed as nonspecific. This is the type of back pain that most people will have at some point in their lives. It is called nonspecific because it is usually not clear what is actually causing the pain. In other words, there is no specific problem or disease that can be identified as the cause of the pain. The severity of the pain can vary from mild to severe. This type of back pain is discussed further below.

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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.

Vi Lower Back Pain Caused By Infection

Infections of the spine are not common, but they do occur. The doctor will ask about the usual signs and symptoms of infection, especially when back pain is accompanied by fever and/or chills.Dialysis patients, IV drug users, and patients who have recently had surgery, trauma, or skin infections are at risk for infections of the spine. Infections of the spine can be caused by a number of agents, most commonly bacteria. Doctors will first test for the presence of bacteria, then give antibiotics.

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Ways To Treat Chronic Back Pain Without Surgery

Back pain is considered chronic if it lasts three months or longer. It cancome and go, often bringing temporary relief, followed by frustration.Dealing with chronic back pain can be especially trying if you dont knowthe cause.

Back pain rehabilitationspecialistAndrew Nava, M.D., offers insights into common chronic back pain causes and nonsurgicaltreatment optionsand advises not to give up hope.

Find Back Pain Relief: Lighten Your Bags

How to Fix Your Lower Back Pain for Good

Carrying an overstuffed purse, briefcase, or handbag can strain the low back. If you must carry a heavy load, consider using a wheeled briefcase instead. By reducing the amount of weight you’re carrying, you reduce the amount of pressure on the spine. Help keep your kids’ backs healthy by making sure their backpacks are not overloaded. A heavy backpack could mean future back pain for your little ones.

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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.

What Can I Do If I Have Acute Low Back Pain

The following advice will benefit a majority of people with back pain. If any of the following guidelines causes an increase of pain or spreading of pain to the legs, do not continue the activity and seek the advice of a physician or physical therapist.

The key to recovering from acute low back pain is maintaining the normal curve of the spine . Supporting the hollow of your back will help decrease your recovery time.

Follow these guidelines for 10 to 20 days after you experience acute low back pain:

Sitting

  • Sit as little as possible, and only for short periods of time .
  • Sit with a back support at the curve of your back.
  • Keep your hips and knees at a right angle. Your legs should not be crossed and your feet should be flat on the floor.

Here’s how to find a good sitting position when you’re not using a back support or lumbar roll:

Correct sitting position without lumbar support.

Correct sitting position with lumbar support.

Driving

  • Use a back support at the curve of your back. Your knees should be at the same level or higher than your hips.
  • Move the seat close to the steering wheel to support the curve of your back. The seat should be close enough to allow your knees to bend and your feet to reach the pedals.

Standing

Stooping, squatting, and kneeling

Lifting objects

Reaching overhead

Sleeping and lying down

Other helpful tips

If you sleep on your back, put pillows under your knees and a small pillow under the small of your back.

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