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What Can You Do For Lower Back Pain

Diagnosis Of Lower Back Pain

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Your physiotherapist or GP will usually be able to diagnose lower back pain from your symptoms and by examining you. A physiotherapist is a healthcare professional who specialises in maintaining and improving movement and mobility. You may want to go straight to see a physiotherapist if a self-refer service is available in your area. If its not, you can see your GP who can advise and refer you.

Usually further tests wont help. But if you have other symptoms, your GP may recommend tests including:

How Common Is Lower Back Pain

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.

Range Of Lower Back Pain Symptoms

Low back pain can incorporate a wide variety of symptoms. It can be mild and merely annoying or it can be severe and debilitating. Low back pain may start suddenly, or it could start slowlypossibly coming and goingand gradually get worse over time.

Depending on the underlying cause of the pain, symptoms can be experienced in a variety of ways. For example:

  • Pain that is dull or achy, contained to the low back
  • Stinging, burning pain that moves from the low back to the backs of the thighs, sometimes into the lower legs or feet can include numbness or tingling
  • Muscle spasms and tightness in the low back, pelvis, and hips
  • Pain that worsens after prolonged sitting or standing
  • Difficulty standing up straight, walking, or going from standing to sitting

In addition, symptoms of lower back pain are usually described by type of onset and duration:

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Massage Therapy For Low Back Pain

Studies have shown that massage treatments can help relieve chronic low back pain. Massage treatment can restore people to their usual activities of daily living and lessen pain. Massage therapy is limited, and would not be the most effective solution for patients with spinal complications, injuries, or disk problems since massage focuses on the release of muscle tension and not on the structure of the spine itself.

What Are Some Other Causes Of Lower Back Pain

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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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How Is Back Pain Diagnosed

Most people who develop low back pain that comes on suddenly have nonspecific low back pain. If there are no other associated symptoms and the pain is not too bad, many people are confident to just ‘get on with it’ and treat it themselves – and indeed most get better quickly. However, if in doubt, see your doctor for a check-over and advice.

A doctor will usually want to ask questions about your symptoms and to examine you. Basically, the symptoms are usually as described above, with no other worrying symptoms to suggest anything serious or another cause of back pain . The examination by a doctor will not detect anything to suggest a more serious cause of back pain. Therefore, a doctor can usually be confident from his or her assessment that you have nonspecific back pain.

As a general guide, if any of the following occur then it may not be nonspecific low back pain, and there may be a more serious underlying cause. But note: the vast majority of people with low back pain do not have any of the following symptoms or features. They are included here for completeness and as an aid to what to look out for and to tell your doctor should they occur.

  • Symptoms that may indicate cauda equina syndrome. The main ones are, in addition to back pain:
  • Numbness around the back passage – the saddle area.
  • Bladder symptoms such as loss of bladder sensation loss of bladder control, incontinence, loss of sensation when passing urine.
  • Incontinence of stools .
  • If you inject street drugs.
  • 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.

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    Hot Or Cold Therapy For Low Back Pain

    Hot or cold packs may help ease pain and reduce symptoms. The soothing relief from heat, or the dulling relief from a cold pack, is only temporary and will not treat more serious causes of back pain. However, they may provide greater mobility for people with acute, subacute, or chronic pain, allowing them to get up and get moving.

    Pain Medications To Treat Back Pain

    How to Fix Your Lower Back Pain for Good

    A wide range of medications is used to treat both acute and chronic low back pain. Analgesic medications are specially formulated to relieve pain. They include over-the-counter acetaminophen and aspirin, as well as prescription opioids such as codeine, oxycodone, hydrocodone, and morphine.

    Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs can also be used to relieve pain and inflammation. Over-the-counter NSAIDS include ibuprofen, ketoprofen, and naproxen sodium. Several others, including a type of NSAID called COX-2 inhibitors, are available only by prescription.

    There are also many topical creams or sprays that can dull and soothe low back pain. These are applied to the skin and thus stimulate localized nerves to provide feelings of warmth or cold in order to dull the sensation of pain. Topical analgesics can reduce inflammation and increase blood flow.

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    What Can Cause Lower Back Pain

    Most acute low back pain is mechanical in nature, meaning that there is a disruption in the way the components of the back fit together and move. Some examples of mechanical causes of low back pain include:

    Congenital

    • Skeletal irregularities such as scoliosis , lordosis , kyphosis , and other congenital anomalies of the spine.
    • Spina bifida which involves the incomplete development of the spinal cord and/or its protective covering and can cause problems involving malformation of vertebrae and abnormal sensations and even paralysis.

    Injuries

    • Sprains , strains , and spasms
    • Traumatic Injury such as from playing sports, car accidents, or a fall that can injure tendons, ligaments, or muscle causing the pain, as well as compress the spine and cause discs to rupture or herniate.

    Degenerative problems

    • Intervertebral disc degeneration which occurs when the usually rubbery discs wear down as a normal process of aging and lose their cushioning ability.
    • Spondylosis the general degeneration of the spine associated with normal wear and tear that occurs in the joints, discs, and bones of the spine as people get older.
    • Arthritis or other inflammatory disease in the spine, including osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis as well as spondylitis, an inflammation of the vertebrae.

    Nerve and spinal cord problems

    Non-spine sources

    What Is The Outlook

    Most of us will have a bout of nonspecific low back pain at some point in our lives. The severity can vary. However, it is difficult to quote exact figures as to outlook . This is partly because it is so common and many people with back pain do not consult a doctor. Roughly, it is thought that:

    • Most nonspecific back pains ease and go quickly, usually within a few weeks.
    • In about 4 in 10 cases, the pain has completely gone within four weeks.
    • In about 7 in 10 cases the pain has completely gone within one year.

    However, once the pain has eased or gone it is common to have further bouts of pain from time to time in the future. Also, it is common to have minor pains on and off for quite some time after an initial bad bout of pain. In a small number of cases the pain persists for several months or longer. This is called chronic back pain.

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    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.

    Bonus Tip: Soothe The Pain With Cold And/or Hot

    Lower Back Pain

    Don’t underestimate the pain reduction of simply applying cold packs and/or hot packs to help reduce your lower back pain.

    • Cold therapy helps reduce inflammation and pain. Some examples include wrapping ice in a cloth, a pack of frozen peas from the freezer, or a cold gel pack. Always keep at least one layer between your skin and the ice/cold pack.
    • Heat therapy helps improve blood flow, relaxation, and pain relief. Heat therapy can come in many forms. It’s best to try several to find what works best for you. Taking a warm bath or shower, soaking in a hot tub, or using a heating pad or heat wrap are all ways to bring warmth to your lower back.

    Whether applying ice or a heat pack, limit applications to 15 or 20 minutes with at least 2 hours of rest in between to protect your skin. Never sleep with a heating pad or frozen pack as this can lead to permanent skin damage.

    Hopefully these overlooked remedies can help you try some new approaches to better manage your lower back pain and find lasting relief.

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    When Should I See My Healthcare Provider About Lower Back Pain

    Lower back pain usually gets better with rest and pain relievers. Back pain that doesnt go away may be a sign of a more serious condition.

    See your provider if you have:

    • Pain that doesnt get better after about a week of at-home care.
    • Tingling, numbness, weakness or pain in your buttocks or legs.
    • Severe pain or muscle spasms that interfere with your normal activities.
    • Fever, weight loss, bowel or bladder problems or other unexplained symptoms.

    A note from Cleveland Clinic

    Millions of people live with low back pain. Stiffness, pain and limited movement can have a major impact on quality of life. But you may be able to avoid lower back pain by maintaining a healthy weight and staying active. Talk to your provider if back pain doesnt go away or if youre unable to do the activities you enjoy. Several treatments can relieve pain, help you move better and get more out of life.

    Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 01/18/2021.

    References

    The Most Common Causes Of Lower Back Pain Are A Strain Or Sprain

    Whether you notice it or not, your lumbar spine gets put to work throughout the entire day.

    Amid all of this work and motion, a lower back sprain or strain can result from an acute injury, such as one experienced while falling, lifting something too heavy or playing sports. A sprain or strain can also develop over time due to repetitive movements or poor posture.

    “Straining a muscle or spraining a ligament are the most common causes of lower back pain,” says Dr. Palmer. “While they can be serious, these common causes of lower back pain aren’t long-lasting taking anywhere from a few days to heal or, at most, a few months.”

    Your doctor can help you determine the particular course of self-care that can help heal your lower back pain.

    “The treatment for a pulled back muscle or strained back ligament is fairly simple and can include pain and anti-inflammatory medications, muscle relaxers, ice to help reduce inflammation, heat to promote healing, and avoiding strenuous activity until the pain recedes,” explains Dr. Palmer. “The best course of care will depend on the severity of your injury as well as your overall core and lower body strength.”

    If your lower back pain persists despite treatment, it may be time to consider other causes of lower back pain.

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    When Should I See My Doctor

    If you have back pain and have lost feeling or movement in your limbs or are having problems controlling your bowels or bladder, call triple 000 immediately and ask for an ambulance.

    You should see your doctor or other health care professional for further advice if:

    You should see your doctor as soon as possible, if you have a history of cancer, are prone to infection, or use intravenous drugs.

    For most people, back pain will resolve in a few weeks with appropriate self-care. After 2 months, 9 out of 10 people will recover from back pain.

    Things You Can Do To Ease Back Pain

    Effective Core Exercises To Relieve Lower Back Pain

    Any of these conditions can cause inflammation or pressure on nerves or pain. When this happens, Cleveland Clinic back pain specialists recommend:

  • Be more physically active. Motion is lotion for the spine, notes spine specialist E. Kano Mayer, MD. The more active you are, the better youll feel. Stay active, and youll bounce back sooner from episodes of back pain.
  • Do physical therapy. Physicians can prescribe a back-healthy exercise program to help you gain strength, and improve balance and flexibility. Strengthening your back and abdominal muscles your core will make your spine more resilient.
  • Take medications. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications ibuprofen, naproxen, aspirin or acetaminophen can halt inflammatory pain. Pulsed dosing consistently taking the medicine two to three times per day for five to 10 days, even after pain subsides is more reasonable than as-needed dosing, says Dr. Mayer.
  • Apply cold. Reach for an ice pack first when back pain strikes. Applying ice helps quiet painful inflammation or muscle spasms.
  • Apply heat. After two or three days, consider using a heating pad, taking warm baths or lying briefly under a heat lamp. This can relax your back muscles and stimulate blood flow, explains Dr. Mayer. Dont overuse heat to avoid getting burned. Stretch warmed muscles to prevent muscle spasm after the heat source is removed.
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    Yoga: Stretching For Back Pain

    If back pain doesn’t go away in three months, there’s evidence that yoga can help. In one recent study, people who took 12 weeks of yoga classes had fewer symptoms of low back pain than people who were given a book about care for back pain. The benefits lasted several months after the classes were finished. The study suggests conventional stretching also works just as well. Make sure your instructor is experienced at teaching people with back pain and will modify postures for you as needed.

    The Universal Guide To Lower Back Pain: Everything You Ever Wanted To Know Straight From The Experts

    In This Article: | | | | | | | | | |

    If youve ever had lower back pain stop you from doing what you want, youre not alone. Lower back pain is one of the most common medical problems in the world. It is a leading reason why people visit a doctor, affecting more than 80% of adults at some point in their lives. According to the Global Burden of Diseasea significant study published in the Lancet medical journallower back pain is also a leading cause of disability.

    While severe lower back pain can cause worry, pain severity is not always an indication something is seriously wrong. Photo Source: Shutterstock.

    You may not be able to prevent lower back pain, especially as you age and your back loses some strength and resilience. Fortunately, there are many ways you can get relief, no matter the cause of your back pain.

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