Prop Onto Your Elbows
While lying on your stomach, slowly prop yourself up onto your elbows. This maneuver should cause your low back to bend back slightly. Take a few deep breaths and try to relax in this position.
While propping on your elbows, again try to monitor your symptoms for any changes. A decrease in your symptoms or centralization of your pain is a good sign here.
If your low back pain or sciatica worsens in the propped up position, simply return to lying face down and relax for a few more minutes, and then try to prop up again. Sometimes the pain is simply too intense to get into the propped up position. If this is the case, wait a few hours and try again.
Remain in the propped up position for a few minutes, and then slowly return to the prone lying position. Repeat this cycle for three to five repetitions, and then move on to the next exercise.
What Are The Potential Complications Of Upper Back Pain
The complications associated with any kind of back pain depend on the underlying disease, disorder or condition. Most cases of upper back pain are not due to serious diseases and do not lead to long-term complications. , basic self-care measures, and following the treatment plan outlined by your doctor can help treat many causes of back pain and relieve pain. However, upper back pain may become chronic and overwhelming. If you are struggling, ask your doctor about advances in back pain treatment.
Over time, upper back pain can lead to complications including:
Absenteeism from work or school
Permanent nerve damage including paralysis
Physiological and psychological response to
- Poor quality of life
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.
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How Can You Prevent Lower Back Pain
While you cant stop aging or change your genetic makeup, lifestyle changes can help manage and prevent lower back pain. Having a healthy lifestyle may make you less likely to suffer an accidental injury, too.
Improve your physical fitness. People who are not physically fit are more likely to develop lower back pain because strong core muscles help support the lower back.
Stay active. People who lead sedentary lives may be more likely to injure themselves when they do exert themselves. As far as back health is concerned, its better to do a smaller amount of physical activity most days of the week than to sit all week and over-exert yourself on the weekends.
Lose weight if necessary. The more you weigh, the more pressure you have on your lumbar vertebrae. Being overweight or obese can put stress on the back and lead to lower back pain.
Lift heavy objects the right way. Be sure to squat while lifting so that your hips and knees do much of the work. Keep the load close to your chest while you lift.
Your legs, not your lower back, should be the main driver when you’re lifting something heavy.Make your workspace as ergonomic as possible. If you sit at a desk, make sure your chair has plenty of low-back support and your hips are at a right angle to the floor.
Dont use tobacco products. In addition to all the other health problems tobacco use causes, it can restrict blood flow and oxygen to the discs, causing them to degenerate faster.
What Can I Do About Acute Back Or Neck Pain
The key to recovering from acute back or neck pain is restricting your activity and taking over the counter medications, because most back pain is related to muscle strain. In most cases, acute back pain will go away on its own over a period of days. Here are some tips that will help you recover:
1. Take it easy If you think you’ve hurt your back, ease up on the pressure you’re putting on your back. Many people actually have little choice in the mattertheir back pain will force them to drop to their knees or “freeze” in a bent-over position. Others will be able to function somewhat normally, but with uncomfortable pain. Contrary to popular belief, studies on acute back pain actually show that a few days of restricting your activity, and taking the appropriate over-the-counter medication, is all that many people really need to allow the strained muscles to relax and unbind. However, it is important to talk with your health care provider before taking any medication, especially if you are taking other medications or have a chronic medical condition.
2. Ice, then heat Remember this rule: “Ice first for 48 hours, then heat.” Ice and heat can alleviate local pain that comes from muscle and ligament strain. Ice slows swelling and inflammation and acts as a local anesthetic, but after 48 hours, it loses its effect. Using heat afterwards increases blood flow to the deep tissues and relaxes muscle spasms.
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Wear Shoes With More Cushioning
Eric Cressey touched on this topic HERE, but I wanted to chime in on it as well.
I get it: You wear Vibrams everywhere you go even at the mall so that everyone within a two-mile radius knows just how hardcore you are.
First off all, youre a douche.
Secondly, wearing shoes which offer a bit more cushioning may be more advantageous for those with extension-based back pain as it helps serve as a bit more of a shock absorber.
I walk around on hard black, rubber matting all day when Im coaching and it can be unforgiving on my back. Upon the recommendation of Mike Reinold, I switched to a shoe that offered a bit more cushioning and I could instantly feel a difference in how my back felt at the end of each day.
If youre someone who has to stand for long periods of time throughout the day, this subtle tip could be a game changer.
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
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Answers To Common Back Pain Questions
More than eight in 10 people will experience upper, mid, or low back pain at some point in their lives. Low back pain is the most common back pain. In most cases, the pain goes away over time. If your back pain is severe or does not improve, you may need medical care. Here are answers to some common questions about back pain and tips on when to seek help.
Red Flags For Low Back Pain Emergencies
Pearls: *Constant, unrelenting, severe pain, especially if it is worse lying down is a red flag for infection or cancer.* Discogenic pain is worse with flexion, and pain from spondylolysis is worse with extension
Update 2018: While positive responses to red flag questions for low back pain prompt further investigation, negative responses are not sufficient to rule out serious pathology. Though conclusions were based on a large retrospective review, the authors present data recommending caution when using red flag questions as screening tools. Abstract
Update 2021: Retrospective tertiary center review showed that bilateral lower extremity pain, dermatomal distribution sensory loss, and loss of bilateral ankle/knee reflexes showed correlation with radiographic diagnosis of cauda equina compression while digital rectal examination did not demonstrate any benefit. However, individual symptoms showed poor performance in ruling in CEC. Abstract
A challenge in the ED?
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What Is Serious Back Pain
In this blog, when I say serious back pain, I mean back pain that requires a visit to a doctor.
The severity of your symptoms is not the only indicator as to whether your lower back pain is serious. For example, pain from a pulled lower back muscle can be intense, but it will typically subside after a few days of basic at-home care.
In contrast, lumbar degenerative disc disease can cause a moderate, dull ache in the lower backthis kind of pain is not necessarily intense, but it may get worse over time without treatment. In these cases, a physician can recommend a long-term treatment plan.
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.
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It Sounds Borderline Silly But Being More Cognizant Of Rib Position Is A Huge Deal
Walking around in a flared rib position in concert with an excessive anterior pelvic tilt is a one-way ticket to Mybackfuckinghatesmeville, USA.
Case in point, heres an example of what I mean:
In the first picture my ribcage is flared out and the line between my nipples and belly button is long. Conversely, in the bottom picture my abs are braced and the line between my nipples and belly button is shorter. This is the position Id ideally like to stay in for most of the day, and especially while exercising.
Now, Im am NOT insinuating you need to walk around all day checking yourself, making sure your abs and glutes are engaged, but I am saying its something that should enter the equation.
We all know the saying that we have one hour to fix things in the weightroom and 23 more hours in the day to f-things up. Well, this is part of those 23 hours.
The point above coincides very well with the section above on seated rows. Incidentally it also bodes well for just above everything with regards to lifting heavy things.
Learning to own your rib position when squatting and deadlifting can pay huge dividends with how your back feels in the long run.
I wrote an entire article on the topic HERE.
Even something as trivial as how we perform a standard lunge can have an effect.
Weve always cued people to perform their lunges with their shoulder up and retracted and they chest up:
What Are Some Complementary Alternative And Emerging Treatments For Lower Back Pain
In some cases, doctors suggest therapies that are not considered standard of care. They probably wont be covered by insurance, but they may be worth considering. Examples include:
Platelet-rich plasma . PRP treatments use a small sample of your own blood that has concentrated amounts of blood building blocks known as platelets. Your doctor then injects the PRP directly into a damaged disc. The theory is that PRP injections use your own healing system to accelerate improvement of injured tendons, ligaments, muscles, and joints. PRP treatment has a longer track record in knee osteoarthritis, but a recent review article in the Journal of Spine Surgery suggests it may have a useful role for back pain, too. PRP needs a lot more research before it can be considered a proven technique.
Stem cells. In this emerging treatment, your doctor injects stem cells harvested from your hip into the intervertebral disc or discs causing your pain. Doing so may lessen pain and the degenerative effects of aging, though, like PRP, more research is needed before stem cells for lower back pain could eventually become the standard of care.
Acupuncture. Your doctor probably doesnt perform acupuncture , but may support you trying it as a complementary therapy. Acupuncture involves careful insertion of fine, sterile needles into specific points on your body. This may stimulate the release of your natural pain-killing chemicals.
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Spinal Metastasis A Low Back Pain Emergency
- Known cancer + new back pain = spinal metastases until proven otherwise!
- Time is Limbs: Spinal metastases are one of the most common causes of cord compression. Pre-treatment neuro status predicts outcome for this emergency.
- X-ray to look for compression #, soft tissue changes, blastic/lytic lesions, pedicle erosion
- Consider testing ESR and CRP, and calcium profile if signs are consistent with hypercalcemia
- Give dexamethasone as soon as mets are suspected if the patient has neurologic symptoms. Consider bisphosphonate* and calcitonin if patient is hypercalcemic, or if you suspect compression # or bony metastasis.
- Get an urgent MRI if there are symptoms of cord compression. If there are hard neurologic findings, MRI is needed within 24 hours. If the x-ray findings are consistent with mets, but there are no neuro findings, an MRI should be done within 7 days.
*Bisphosphonates may decrease bone resorption in patients with metastatic disease to the bone, and relieve pain better than placebo.
Causes And Diagnosis Of A Pulled Back Muscle
Trauma, stress, and tension may all cause strains and sprains. Some of the most common causes include:
- Falling, especially if you hit the ground hard or fall in an awkward position.
- Repetitive movements that stress and irritate the back muscles.
- Unsafe lifting, lifting while twisting, or lifting a very heavy object. Parents sometimes injure their backs throwing or playing with children.
- Excess weight that puts excess strain on back muscles. People who are overweight, people who suddenly gain weight, and pregnant women are more vulnerable to pulled muscles.
- A sedentary lifestyle. This may weaken the back, increasing the risk of injuries.
- Poor posture when sitting or bad form when doing athletic activities.
A medical professional may suspect a strain or sprain based on symptoms and your medical history. If another injury, such as a broken bone or herniated disc, is possible, the provider may do other tests, such as an x-ray or MRI scan.3
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Lumbosacral Sprain & Mechanical Low Back Pain
Lumbosacral sprain is a diagnosis of exclusion:
- Lumbosacral sprain or mechanical back pain is a diagnosis of exclusion, made only after carefully ruling out serious causes of low back pain.
Management of lumbosacral sprain:
Update 2017: New ACP guidelines based on a systematic review from the Annals of Internal Medicine:1. Acute low back pain: recommends superficial heat and if pharmacological treatment is desired NSAIDs or skeletal muscle relaxants. There was no added benefit of tramadol or opioids combined with NSAIDs for acute pain. Acetaminophen was found to be ineffective. 2. Chronic low back pain: recommends exercise, acupuncture, and mindfulness-based stress reduction while first line for pharmacological treatment continued to be NSAIDs and second line either tramadol or duloxetine. Abstract
Dr. Steinhart, Dr. Himmel and Dr. Helman have no conflicts of interest to declare