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What Should I Do If I Have Lower Back Pain

The Best Sleeping Positions For Lower Back Pain

Lower back pain treatment: What can I do to relieve my low back pain?

The best sleeping position for lower back pain is on your side with a partial bend in the knees. Keeping the knees bent helps balance the body and reduces pressure on the lumbar spine. Many people find it helpful to put a small pillow between their knees to make this position more comfortable.

Unfortunately, many back and stomach sleepers have a hard time changing their sleeping position. Even so, they can take steps to reduce strain on their lower back:

  • Back sleepers can put a pillow under their knees, legs, and/or lower back to support the natural curve of the spine and minimize lumbar pressure.
  • Stomach sleepers should opt for only a thin pillow under their head and place a more supportive pillow under their hips and abdomen. This works to prevent the lower back from sinking into a U-shape that pulls the spine out of alignment.

Some people with back pain use an adjustable bed that makes it easy to raise the upper or lower part of the mattress in a way that decreases tension in the lower back.

Other Types Of Diagnosis

  • A chiropractor will diagnose through touch, or palpation, and a visual examination. Chiropractic is known as a direct approach, with a strong focus on adjusting the spinal joints. A chiropractor may also want to see the results of imaging scans and any blood and urine tests.
  • An osteopath also diagnoses through palpation and visual inspection. Osteopathy involves slow and rhythmic stretching, known as mobilization, pressure or indirect techniques, and manipulation of joints and muscles.
  • A physical therapist focuses on diagnosing problems in the joints and soft tissues of the body.

Arthritis Of The Spine

Arthritis of the spine the slow degeneration of the spinal joints is the most frequent cause of lower back pain. All of us experience wear and tear as we age, and it is normal for your lower back to start acting up as you get older. As the cartilage breaks down between the spinal joints, surrounding tissues may become inflamed. The inflammation and the thinning of cartilage increase friction in the joints, which may cause pain in the lower back.

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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.

What Can Cause Lower Back Pain

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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

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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.

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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Treatment Options For Lower Back Pain

If your GP thinks there may be a specific cause for your back pain, they may refer you to a specialist to treat that specific condition.Usually, lower back pain gets better in a few days or weeks and often you can manage it yourself at home. For some advice about when to seek medical help, see our section on Symptoms.

Your physiotherapist or GP will probably encourage you to try self-help measures. They can also advise you on what exercises you can do to help your back. If the pain doesnt improve, then your GP can help with other options or may refer you to a specialist.

When Should You See A Doctor About Lower Back Pain

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Back pain is common and often recedes quickly, but its important to talk with a doctor if:

  • The pain began with a specific injury
  • Pain continues or worsens for more than a few days
  • Pain is debilitating
  • Pain radiates to the legs or other parts of the body
  • You experience weakness or numbness in your lower body
  • There are signs of infection like redness, warmth, swelling, or fever
  • You have a personal history of cancer
  • You have other unexplained health changes like weight loss or urinary problems

A doctor can review your symptoms and determine the appropriate next steps for testing, diagnosis, and treatment.

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What Is Lower Back Pain

Low back pain can result from many different injuries, conditions or diseases most often, an injury to muscles or tendons in the back.

Pain can range from mild to severe. In some cases, pain can make it difficult or impossible to walk, sleep, work or do everyday activities.

Usually, lower back pain gets better with rest, pain relievers and physical therapy . Cortisone injections and hands-on treatments can relieve pain and help the healing process. Some back injuries and conditions require surgical repair.

Stop Trying Passive Treatments

Passive treatments like heat, ice or ultrasound may feel good, but their effect is usually only temporary. Most research indicates that active self-care exercise and postural correction is an effective remedy for low back pain.

A visit to your physical therapist can help determine which exercises are best for your specific condition.

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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.

How To Relieve Back Pain

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The following tips may help reduce your back pain and speed up your recovery:

  • stay as active as possible and try to continue your daily activities this is 1 of the most important things you can do, as resting for long periods is likely to make the pain worse
  • try exercises and stretches for back pain other activities such as walking, swimming, yoga and pilates may also be helpful
  • take anti-inflammatory painkillers, such as ibuprofen remember to check the medicine is safe for you to take and ask a pharmacist if you’re not sure
  • use hot or cold compression packs for short-term relief you can buy these from a pharmacy, or a hot water bottle or a bag of frozen vegetables wrapped in a cloth or towel will work just as well

Although it can be difficult, it helps if you stay optimistic and recognise that your pain should get better. People who manage to stay positive despite their pain tend to recover quicker.

Back pain usually gets better on its own within a few weeks or months and you may not need to see a doctor or other healthcare professional.

But it’s a good idea to get help if:

  • the pain does not start to improve within a few weeks
  • the pain stops you doing your day-to-day activities
  • the pain is very severe or gets worse over time
  • you’re worried about the pain or struggling to cope

If you see a GP they will ask about your symptoms, examine your back and discuss possible treatments.

They may refer you to a specialist doctor or a physiotherapist for further help.

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What Are The Signs Of A Back Injury

Signs you may have injured your back include:

  • pain or tenderness
  • pain that worsens with movement, coughing, sneezing or laughing
  • stiffness or difficulty moving
  • swelling
  • pain that radiates down one or both legs

However, back pain has many causes. It could be caused by a disease such as osteoarthritis or osteoporosis, your age, physical fitness, smoking, being overweight, or the type of work you do.

It is important to find out the cause of your symptoms so they can be treated properly.

Activity And Back Pain

Back pain is one of the most common reasons for time off work, but staying at work has been shown to improve recovery, although you may need to modify some tasks. When you have back pain, keep as active as you can. Avoid bed rest this does not help and can make symptoms worse. Although you may feel some pain when you are active, it is safe to exercise while you have back pain.

Benefits of keeping active
  • help you to keep doing things that are important or that you enjoy
  • help you feel more positive
  • shift your focus away from your back
  • give you an opportunity to be with others
  • improve your confidence in your back
  • help to control your pain
  • help you feel more in control
  • enable you to be able to return to work more quickly.

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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.

Avoid This: Forward Bends

Should I Workout With Lower Back Pain

Too-tight hamstrings can make the lower back work harder. Bending forward to touch the toes is often used to stretch the hamstrings, but it puts too much stress on the spinal discs and ligaments in the back. Its best to avoid this stretch, particularly if you have a bulging or herniated disc in your lower back.

Try This Instead: Hamstring Stretch with a TowelTo do this stretch, lie on your back with one knee bent. Wrap a towel behind the foot of the opposite leg, using it to pull the leg up. Straighten the leg, and hold for 15 30 seconds. Repeat with the other leg.

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Conditions Of Bone And Joint Causes Lower Back Pain

Bone and joint conditions: Bone and joint conditions that lead to low back pain include those existing from birth , those that result from wear and tear or injury, and those that are due to inflammation of the joints .

Congenital bone conditions: Congenital causes of low back pain include scoliosis and spina bifida. Scoliosis is a sideways curvature of the spine that can be caused when one lower extremity is shorter than the other or because of an abnormal architecture of the spine . Children who are significantly affected by structural scoliosis may require treatment with bracing and/or surgery to the spine. Adults infrequently are treated surgically but often benefit from support bracing. Spina bifida is a birth defect in the bony vertebral arch over the spinal canal, often with the absence of the spinous process. This birth defect most commonly affects the lowest lumbar vertebra and the top of the sacrum. Occasionally, there are abnormal tufts of hair on the skin of the involved area. Spina bifida can be a minor bony abnormality without symptoms. However, the condition can also be accompanied by serious nervous abnormalities of the lower extremities.

Lower Back Pain Symptoms Diagnosis And Treatment

The lumbar spine, or low back, is a remarkably well-engineered structure of interconnecting bones, joints, nerves, ligaments, and muscles all working together to provide support, strength, and flexibility. However, this complex structure also leaves the low back susceptible to injury and pain.

Watch:Lumbar Spine Anatomy Video

This article presents a model for understanding symptoms, physical findings, imaging studies, and injection techniques to come to a precise diagnosis.

Once an accurate diagnosis of the cause of the lower back pain is attained, treatment options can be selected based on todays best medical practices.

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Do Follow Your Chiropractors Instructions

Unfortunately, many people begin to feel better very quickly after seeing their chiropractor and believe that they are on the road to healing. They stop their appointments and return quickly to their regular routine.

This is an almost fool proof way to find yourself back at square one and possibly in more pain than before. The same advice should be followed with your chiropractor as you get from your doctor regarding antibiotics always use until completion, even if you feel better earlier than expected.

Following your chiropractors instructions for your treatment and lifestyle changes is the best way to ensure that you dont have a repeat performance of the low back pain blues!

Can Further Bouts Of Back Pain Be Prevented

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Evidence suggests that the best way to prevent bouts of low back pain is simply to keep active and to exercise regularly. This means general fitness exercise such as walking, running, swimming, etc. There is no firm evidence to say that any particular back strengthening exercises are more useful to prevent back pain than simply keeping fit and active. It is also sensible to be back-aware. For example, do not lift objects when you are in an awkward twisting posture.

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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.

Common causes:

  • 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.

Rarity: Common

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

Urgency: Self-treatment

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