Lower Back Pain: How To Tell If Its Muscle
When a patient visits my office with back pain, its my job to uncover the pain generator. We talk through the patients history, discuss their symptoms, and make a determination as to next steps. If need be, I prepare their case to be looked at by a surgeon, but generally, my goal is to help patients avoid surgery and find relief with more conservative measures.
Most cases of back pain are not caused by serious conditions. But its important to always rule out the possibility that a patient has another internal issue that mimics back pain . Colitis, kidney stones, gallbladder issues, vascular problems, or an aneurysm are examples of serious conditions that are capable of causing pain to radiate into the back, making it feel like youre experiencing back pain.
A thorough fact-finding investigation should help determine the cause. When did the pain start? How long did it last? What makes it better or worse? Key to determining the pain generator is the patients description of their condition and their medical history. For example, if a patient describes the pain as having come on suddenly and causing nausea, nearly prompting a trip to the emergency room, then disappearing just as suddenly, they may be suffering from a kidney stone rather than back pain from a spinal condition.
- Muscle pain
- Disc pain
Lets take a look at each type in more detail.
Treating Back Pain At Home
Aside from such severe injuries or arthritis, most lumbar pain is short term and may respond well to home care, especially if its a recent occurrence and you suspect you know how you may have caused it. If the level of pain is mild, here are five things you can try at homebut if pain lingers or gets worse, discontinue your efforts and consult your doctor:
Simple Stretches To Relieve Lower Back Pain
Lower back pain can be a debilitating and painful condition.
Fortunately, staying physically active may be the most effective and cost-efficient way to soothe or prevent it.
Here are 8 simple stretches to relieve lower back pain.
Although its origin varies, changes in the lumbar, or lower back, structure due to musculoskeletal damage are considered to be the main cause .
Your musculoskeletal system is made up of bones, muscles, tendons, ligaments, and other connective tissues that provide form, support, stability, and movement to your body.
Other muscles that play an important role in maintaining the normal curvature of your spinal column are reported to be associated with lower back pain. These include the hip flexor and hamstring muscles .
Minor lower back pain normally gets better on its own within a few days or weeks. It can be considered chronic when it persists for more than three months .
In either case, staying physically active and regularly stretching can help reduce lower back pain or prevent it from returning .
The remainder of this article provides eight stretches for lower back pain, all of which you can do in the comfort of your own home with minimal or no equipment.
Summary Lower back pain is an incredibly common condition that can be relieved or prevented with regular exercise and stretching.
The knee-to-chest stretch can help lengthen your lower back, relieving tension and pain.
To perform the knee-to-chest stretch:
Also Check: Why Do I Have A Sharp Pain In My Back
Gently Stretch Your Joints And Soft Tissues Through Yoga
Yoga is an effective way to stretch your back, improve the health of muscles and joints, enhance distribution of healing nutrients through blood circulation, and increase the flexibility of the spine.12
When you start, perform the stretches slowly and advance only if you feel comfortable without pain. Gradually, you will be able to add more stretches to your routine. An ideal time for yoga is early morningto help loosen your spine and also reduce stiffness and aches in your back.
See 3 Beginner Yoga Poses for Lower Back Pain Relief
How To Get Rid Of Lower Back Pain
Many times, low back pain can be self-limiting, and it is not generally a cause for concern, says Jake Magel, a physical therapist and research assistant professor at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City. Most of the time, this pain will resolve within six weeks, but there are many things to try to help you get relief sooner.
Treatments for lower back pain range from over-the-counter pain medications to physical therapy. Other times, lower back pain may warrant surgery. You always want to consult with your doctor to make sure you follow the best course of action for your condition.
Heres what you need to know about the various ways to treat lower back pain.
Also Check: What Doctor Should I See For Back Pain
Inflammatory Back Pain Vs Mechanical Back Pain
Lower back inflammation is a symptom complex rather than a condition and often indicates inflammation of the vertebrae and/or joints of the spine.
But how can you know if your lower back pain is caused by inflammation or by a mechanical problem
Here are the major differences
- Pain persists for more than 3 months
- The back pain and stiffness tend to ease with physical activity and exercise
- NSAIDs are effective pain relievers
- Pain after standing, bending forward, trunk flexion or extension
- Pain when doing sit-ups, driving long distance, getting out of a chair, running
- Pain when coughing or sneezing
What Home Remedies For Lower Back Pain Actually Work
Unless youve had a major injury, such as a fall or car accident, you probably dont need to rush to the doctor for back pain. You may want to try these simple self-care strategies first.
Avoid bed rest. When lower back pain strikes, people often think complete rest will relieve back pain. However, a review of many clinical studies found that patients who retreated to bed actually experienced more pain and recovered more slowly than patients who stayed fairly active
Use ice and/or heat. Many people find that using ice or cold packs for periods of up to 20 minutes at a time helps reduce pain and swelling. Always wrap ice or a cold pack in a thin towel before putting it on your body so you dont injure your skin. You may also find that heat, such as a heating pad or warm bath, eases pain. Ice is recommended in the first 48 hours after injury then you can try a combo of ice and heat.
Try over-the-counter remedies. Short-term use of OTC pain relievers, such as the nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs ibuprofen and naproxen, may ease your lower back pain. Also consider OTC creams, gels, patches, or sprays applied to the skin. They stimulate the nerves in the skin to provide feelings of warmth or cold in order to dull the sensation of pain.
Recommended Reading: What Is Good For Lower Back Pain Relief
When Is Lower Back Pain An Emergency
Most episodes of lower back pain eventually resolve on their own, but there are times when you should seek urgent medical attention. Some of these situations include:
- Patient is a child
- Pain is severe, constant, suddenly or progressively worsens, and/or doesnt go away
- Pain interrupts sleep
While some situations may warrant immediate intervention, most cases are not urgent and can be scheduled at a time convenient for the patient.
Manage Or Reduce Stress
Stress can trigger muscle tension and painful spasms, including in the back. If long-term stress or a traumatic event seems to have caused back pain, a person can try stress-relief techniques, such as:
- Mindfulness meditation.One study showed that mindfulness-based stress reduction improved back pain. Mindfulness involves being aware of what the body is doing and using meditation techniques to assist with the pain.
- Deep breathing. Taking deep breaths in and out for several minutes can calm the bodys stress response.
- Progressive muscle relaxation. This involves tensing and relaxing muscles in the body, focusing on one muscle group at a time. Lying on their back, a person can start with their feet and gradually move up to the shoulders.
- Guided imagery. This involves focusing on specific mental images to bring about a feeling of relaxation. One study found guided imagery and music helps with work-related chronic stress.
- Yoga. Yoga focuses on particular poses and breathing and can help with relaxation, especially when practiced regularly. One review found yoga to be an effective stress management tool.
Many smartphone apps are available to guide a person through relaxation techniques and meditation.
Recommended Reading: How To Correct Back Pain
The 7 Best Natural Cures For Inflammation In The Lower Back
No matter the cause of your lower back pain the pain you experience is caused by one thing:
How to know whats causing your inflammation in the lower back? How to eliminate the pain without depending on pain killers for life?
In this detailed guide, youll find all the answers: the common causes, the ultimate natural cures and how to avoid low back inflammation from coming back ever again.
First, lets start with lower back inflammation symptoms, and how they differ from mechanical lumbar pain:
Prevent It In The First Place
Do exercises to strengthen the core muscles supporting your spine, and your abdominal, back, and hip muscles. Avoid any exercise that causes you to stretch your back to the point of discomfort. Bend at the knees when lifting a heavy object, and keep it close to your body with your knees slightly bent as you hold it. Practice good posture: Dont slump when you sit, and use the muscles in your shoulders and abdomen to maintain your spine in a neutral position.
People with back pain sometimes also suffer from depression. Treating the depression can lessen the pain because the same chemical messengers in the brain influence your mood and how you perceive pain. The antidepressant duloxetine is FDA-approved for treating chronic lower back pain. A word of warning: The drug can cause rare but serious side effects, including lowered blood pressure and a risk of liver failure.
Editor’s Note: This article and related materials are made possible by a grant from the state Attorney General Consumer and Prescriber Education Grant Program, which is funded by the multistate settlement of consumer-fraud claims regarding the marketing of the prescription drug Neurontin .
Don’t Miss: Can Back Pain Cause Weakness In Legs
Other Causes Of Back Pain
There are many other potential causes of back pain, but most of these are rare. Be sure to see your doctor if you experience regular back pain that does not go away.
After ruling out the more common causes of back pain, your doctor will perform tests to determine if you have a rarer cause. These can include:
- displacement of one vertebral body onto another, called degenerative spondylolisthesis
- loss of nerve function at the lower spinal cord, called cauda equina syndrome
- fungal or bacterial infection of the spine, such as Staphylococcus, E. coli, or tuberculosis
- cancer or nonmalignant tumor in the spine
- kidney infection or kidney stones
Back pain can have many symptoms, including:
- a dull aching sensation in the lower back
- a stabbing or shooting pain that can radiate down the leg to the foot
- an inability to stand up straight without pain
- a decreased range of motion and diminished ability to flex the back
The symptoms of back pain, if due to strain or misuse, are usually short-lived but can last for days or weeks.
Back pain is chronic when symptoms have been present for longer than three months.
Best Exercises To Relieve Lower Back Pain
- Practical Tips
Most people will experience lower back pain at some point in their life, it is very common. In the old days bed rest was prescribed if your back was playing-up, whereas today it is recommended to keep exercising. Of course the exercises you do have to be appropriate, we are not suggesting to go for a run or lift heavy weights, that wouldnt be smart. However, there are some great exercises you can do which should help alleviate lower back pain. These exercises are extremely gentle, but of course, listen to your body and stop if you experience any pain.
The exercises work by stretching out muscles that are normally tight when you have lower back pain and strengthening muscles which tend to be weak. Of course, there are many reasons for having lower back pain, so it makes sense to get checked out by a physical therapist.
Make sure you warm-up your muscles before you stretch them. You should never bounce during stretching, and all stretches should be slow and gradual. Avoid over-stretching, stretch your muscles until you feel a slight stretch only, and hold each stretch for 20-30 seconds.
1. Lower Tummy Strengthening
It is important to strengthen your lower tummy muscles because these muscles work in partnership with the lower back. This means if the lower tummy muscles are weak the lower back can tighten up, which can lead to lower back pain.
If your back hurts at all then this exercise is not for you OR at least not yet.
3. Bird Dog
Also Check: What Type Of Doctor To See For Lower Back Pain
Treating Chronic Arthritis Pain In The Spine
Facet joint arthritis is a degenerative condition. In its early stages, occasional mild back pain may respond to one or more of the above tips. However, spinal arthritis can affect the facet joints between each backbone in the lumbar spine, eventually leading to constant bone and/or nerve pain. Only a doctor can determine if arthritis of the facet joints is the source of chronic lumbar pain.
Sperling Medical Group offers a new noninvasive MRI-guided treatment called Focused Ultrasound, a one-time noninvasive outpatient procedure that gives lasting relief without the use of drugs, injections or surgery. To learn more, visit the Sperling Medical Group or contact us to set up a consultation.
NOTE: This content is solely for purposes of information and does not substitute for diagnostic or medical advice. Talk to your doctor if you have health concerns or questions of a personal medical nature.
What Does It Mean If Lower Back Pain Is Shooting Into Legs
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.
Read Also: What To Do When You Have Back Pain During Pregnancy
Stability Ball Reverse Leg Raise
Lie facedown on a stability ball with your hips on the ball, hands on the floor with shoulders over wrists, and legs extended out straight, toes resting on floor. Keeping legs as straight as possible, engage your glutes and your lower back to lift legs until they are in line with your torso. Lower back down to the starting position. Repeat for 15 reps.
Why Is Lower Back Pain Such A Common Problem
The bottom part of your back typically has just five vertebrae fewer than your neck and mid-back. And these vertebrae do a lot of heavy lifting! Your lower back is where your spine connects to your pelvis, bearing the weight of your upper body. This area experiences a lot of movement and stress, which may lead to wear, tear and injuries.
Recommended Reading: Is A Sleep Number Bed Good For Lower Back Pain
When To See A Doctor
People can often treat back pain with home remedies and some patience. However, a person should speak to a doctor about chronic or severe back pain.
A doctor may recommend physical therapy, medication, or other treatments. People who have existing health conditions or who take regular medications should speak to a doctor before trying any herbs or supplements.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration do not monitor supplements for purity or quality, so it is essential to research reputable companies first.
One Back Pain Treatment You Probably Dont Need
Back pain can be incredibly frustrating, and going under the knife may seem like the quickest, easiest fix to bring relief. But the truth is, many people dont need surgery for lower back pain management, Dr. Park says.
If your back pain is musculoskeletal, you will not require surgery, but if its a pinched nerve thats due to a disc herniation or something else, you may need to have surgery, he says. But even in those people, when you go through a six-to-eight-week course of treatment that includes physical therapy and activity modification, 85 to 90 percent of the time, they wont need surgery.
However, if you try the treatments above and dont see any improvement or still feel pain, talk to your doctor about a referral to a pain management specialist, as more specific tests or treatments may be required to get to the bottom of whats going on.
Stay updated on the latest science-backed health, fitness, and nutrition news by signing up for the Prevention.com newsletter here.
Don’t Miss: What Is Lower Back Pain Caused From