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.
Will Bed Rest Help Back Pain
Doctors often recommend continuing your usual activities of daily living as soon as possible. Studies suggest that strict bedrest can often prolong or worsen low back pain. Bed rest can also lead to secondary complications such as depression, decreased muscle tone, and blood clots in the legs. You should try and keep moving while avoiding activities that noticeably aggravate or worsen back pain. By staying active, those who suffer from low back pain can gain greater flexibility and quicker recovery.
What Can I Do For Low Back Pain At Home
If your lower back pain has just started, the best thing you can do is start a log. Record your symptoms, times, dates and which activities trigger the pain or make it worse or better. Take this information to your family physician if the pain doesnt resolve on its own. It will make diagnosing the cause much easier.
Once you know which motion or position causes your lower back pain, try to avoid it and see if you get better. Icing the painful spot can also help. And so can over-the-counter pain relievers that help reduce inflammation. Just remember that pain killers treat only the symptom pain and not its cause.
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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.
Is It Time For Back Surgery
Back surgery is often a last resort when all other treatment options have been tried. Surgery may be considered an option to relieve pain caused by serious musculoskeletal injuries or nerve compression resulting from vertebrae shifting or collapsing.
Back surgeries often have a long recovery period, and some patients may lose mobility and flexibility post-surgery. It is also important to note that not all surgical procedures are successful. As such, it is important for patients to talk with their physicians and know all of the risks associated with a procedure before undergoing back surgery.
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Unexplained Acute Low Back Pain
Unexplained low back pain means chronic pain that comes on gradually, over time, with no specific injury, event, or illness causing it.
- Prolonged sitting and lack of fitness can weaken back muscles and cause pain from lack of support.
- Ankylosing spondylitis, a form of arthritis.
- Spinal stenosis, a narrowing of the spinal column that puts pressure on the spinal cord.
- Certain types of cancer, in rare cases.
Those most susceptible are over 30, overweight and/or pregnant, and not physically fit. Smoking interferes with healing after any sort of stress to the back.
If there are additional symptoms, medical care should be sought: fever, unexplained weight loss, leg weakness or numbness, or trouble urinating.
An exact diagnosis is made through blood tests and through imaging such as x-rays, CT scan, or MRI.
Once more serious causes are ruled out, treatment may include medications to ease pain, swelling, and inflammation. Steroid injections are useful in some cases.
Overall, exercise and maintaining a healthy weight can be very helpful with easing chronic low back pain.
Top Symptoms: lower back pain, back pain that shoots to the butt, fever, back pain
Symptoms that always occur with unexplained acute low back pain:lower back pain
Symptoms that never occur with unexplained acute low back pain:buttocks numbness, thigh numbness, involuntary defecation, fever
Preventing Pain And Injury
Posture. Using correct posture and keeping your spine in alignment are the most important things you can do for your neck and back . The lower back bears most of your weight, so proper alignment of this section can prevent injury to your vertebrae, discs, and other portions of the spine. If you have back or neck pain, you may need to make adjustments to your daily standing, sitting, and sleeping habits and learn proper ways to lift and bend. Your workspace may need to be rearranged to keep your spine from slouching. Because extra pounds can make back pain worse, you should maintain a weight that is appropriate for your height and body frame.
Exercise. Regular exercise is important to prevent back pain and injury. A program of strengthening, stretching and aerobic exercises will improve your overall fitness level. Research has shown that people who are physically fit are more resistant to back injuries and pain, and recover quicker when they do have injuries, than those who are less physically fit .
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Get Active To Treat Chronic Lower Back Pain
lasts 12 weeks or moreNow we know bed rest is one of the worst things to do to treat back pain.make the pain worse
If the pain persists, we recommend scheduling an evaluation from a physical therapist. A physical therapist can teach you how to do special exercises to stretch and strengthen the spine, which should help relieve the pain.
How Your Back Works
The spine, which is also called the backbone or spinal column, is one of the strongest parts of the body and gives us a great deal of flexibility and strength.
Its made up of 24 bones, known as vertebrae, one sitting on top of the other. These bones have discs in between and lots of strong ligaments and muscles around them for support. There are also the bones in the tailbone at the bottom of the back, which are fused together and have no discs in between.
On either side of the spine, running from top to bottom, are many small joints called the facet joints.
The spinal cord passes inside the vertebrae, which protect it.
The spinal cord connects to the brain through the base of the skull and to the rest of the body by nerves that pass through spaces between the bones of the spine. These nerves are also known as nerve roots.
As you grow older, the structures of your spine, such as the joints, discs and ligaments, age as well. The structures remain strong but its usual for your back to get stiffer as you get older.
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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.
Prevention Of Lower Back Pain
If you know how to look after your back, you can greatly reduce your risk of getting back pain. It can help to do the following.
- Exercise regularly walking, swimming or using an exercise bike are all things you can do even if your back feels a bit sore. Take time to build up your fitness if youre trying new activities.
- Use your legs to lift objects by bending your knees and hips, not your back.
- Keep a good posture if you work at a desk, make sure your chair, desk and computer screen are set up correctly. It will help if your employer assesses your work station.
- Move regularly dont sit in the same position for long periods of time.
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Which Lifestyle Factors Contribute To Lower Back Pain
There are three major lifestyle factors that may affect your chances of developing lower back pain:
- Multiple studies have established a link between smoking and lower back pain. Smoking raises inflammation inside the body and hinders the body from healing itself.
- Obesity is also associated with several types of chronic pain, including lower back pain. In people with high body mass index , the stress on the spine increases, contributing to even more wear and tear.
- Your level of physical activity can also play a role in your lower back health. While a sedentary lifestyle could increase your risk of developing lower back pain, so can excessive or strenuous physical activity. Check with your doctor if you are unsure about your ideal level of physical activity.
Rehydrate And Rebuild Your Nutrient Stores
Make sure that you are drinking enough fluids as dehydration and loss of electrolytes affect the length and success of your recovery. Low blood calcium, magnesium and potassium levels can affect some people who suffer from spasms.
These levels will fall drastically during intense exercise and can contribute to the problem of muscle contractions. If you allow these conditions to become chronic, you end up with muscle imbalances which will put your back at risk again.
A very good friend of mine told me about her chronic nightmares of spasms and pain. She tried everything only to finally resolve them by increasing her calcium, magnesium and potassium levels adequately with a supplement. It didnt take long for her to feel a lot better. She said it was like night and day. Its definitely worth a try if you havent considered it yet?
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Back Exercises And Stretches
Simple back exercises and stretches can often help reduce back pain. These can be done at home as often as you need to.
For information about exercises and stretches that can help, see:
A GP may be able to provide information about back exercises if you’re unsure what to try, or you may want to consider seeing a physiotherapist for advice. Read about how to get access to physiotherapy.
Doing regular exercise alongside these stretches can also help keep your back strong and healthy. Activities such as walking, swimming, yoga and pilates are popular choices.
How Is Low Back Pain Diagnosed
A complete medical history and physical exam can usually identify any serious conditions that may be causing the pain. Neurologic tests can help determine the cause of pain and appropriate treatment. Imaging tests are not needed in most cases but may be ordered to rule out specific causes of pain, including tumors and spinal stenosis. Occasionally the cause of chronic lower back pain is difficult to determine even after a thorough examination.
Blood tests are not routinely used to diagnose the cause of back pain but might be ordered to look for signs of inflammation, infection, cancer, and/or arthritis.
Bone scans can detect and monitor an infection, fracture, or bone disorder. A small amount of radioactive material is injected into the bloodstream and collects in the bones, particularly in areas with some abnormality. Scanner-generated images can identify specific areas of irregular bone metabolism or abnormal blood flow, as well as to measure levels of joint disease.
Discography involves injecting a contrast dye into a spinal disc thought to be causing low back pain. The fluids pressure in the disc will reproduce the persons symptoms if the disc is the cause. The dye helps to show the damaged areas on CT scans taken following the injection.
Electrodiagnostics can identify problems related to the nerves in the back and legs. The procedures include:
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Hot And Cold Treatments
Many people have found that hot and cold treatments help relieve back pain. You might try both to find out which works better for you. Heat relaxes muscles and soothes painful areas. There are many ways to apply heat. Some people like hot showers or baths, while others prefer using heat lamps, heating pads or warm compresses. If you have arthritis, heating your muscles first might make it easier for you to do back exercises. Be sure not to fall asleep while using heat. Cold has a numbing effect. This often helps relieve pain. You might try one of these methods for applying cold:
- an ice bag
- a large ice cube used to massage the area
- a frozen package of vegetables
- a commercially made cold pack.
- Be sure not to leave ice on after the skin becomes numb. This could lead to localized frostbite. Do not use cold if you are especially sensitive to it or
- have decreased circulation or sensation. Read the pain management article for more information about heat and cold.
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.
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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 Doctor Should I See For Back Pain
If your back pain is from a recent strain or mild injury, your primary care doctor can probably help. But if the pain is severe, ongoing, or accompanied by other symptoms such as numbness or tingling in your arms or legs, it may be time to see a back doctor. Start with someone who specializes in nonsurgical treatment for back pain. This can include a physiatrist, chiropractor, physical therapist, or orthopaedic physician assistant. They can evaluate your condition and offer appropriate treatment to help alleviate your pain. Depending on your circumstances, they might also refer you to another type of back specialist — for example, a pain management specialist or spine surgeon.
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When Should I Call My Healthcare Provider
- Can’t stand or walk
- Temperature over 101.0°F
- Frequent, painful, or bloody urination
- Severe belly pain
- Pain or numbness in your leg
- Pain in a new area of your back
- The pain isnt decreasing after more than a week
- Pain radiating down the leg.
- Pain that is accompanied by fever or chills, leg weakness, or loss of control of the bladder or bowels.