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.
Home Remedies For Lower Back Pain When Sitting
In addition to improving your posture when sitting, try these at-home remedies for lower back pain:
- Change your position. Consider a standing desk or one thats ergonomically designed to help you maintain good posture by allowing you to adjust the height of your monitor.
- Apply ice.Cold helps reduce inflammation that may be affecting your back. Leave the ice pack on for about 20 minutes, and then remove it. You can do this every hour or so.
- Use a heating pad. After any inflammation is under control , many people find heat soothing. It also promotes healing by bringing blood to your back.
- Take over-the-counter medication.Pain relievers like nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs can reduce discomfort and swelling.
- Use a support. Placing a rolled-up towel or special lumbar pillow at the base of your spine while sitting will help you remember to sit up straight and provide you with some stability.
- Get a massage. This can help loosen and relax tight muscles.
- Consider yoga.Yoga is known for its ability to stretch and strengthen the body. Many programs allow for modification of the poses as needed.
There are several exercises that will help strengthen your lower back. Try these three stretching exercises to help make your back stronger and better toned:
Improper Posture Or Body Mechanics
Bad habits can stress your spine and strain the soft tissue surrounding it. And over time, this repeated stress can break down the structural components of the spine.
While posture or body mechanics are part of every movement you make , your work environment can have a big impact.
If your job requires regular lifting or repetitive movement, proper mechanics are your best defense against chronic back pain.
For office workers, when you sit at your desk for long stretches without stretching, it can cause your hip flexors to tighten. Over time, this can cause hips and hamstrings to weaken, leading to lower back pain.
If you notice yourself hunching over your keyboard several times per day, you may be developing kyphosis. This excessive curving of the spine is often associated with chronic back pain.
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Complementary And Alternative Techniques Include:
- Acupuncture is moderately effective for chronic low back pain. It involves inserting thin needles into precise points throughout the body and stimulating them , which may cause the body to release naturally occurring painkilling chemicals such as endorphins, serotonin, and acetylcholine.
- Behavioral approaches include:
- Biofeedback involves attaching electrodes to the skin and using an electromyography machine that allows people to become aware of and control their breathing, muscle tension, heart rate, and skin temperature people regulate their response to pain by using relaxation techniques
- Cognitive therapy involves using relaxation and coping techniques to ease back pain
Spinal injections include:Trigger point injections can relax knotted muscles that may contribute to back pain. An injection or series of injections of a local anesthetic and often a corticosteroid drug into the trigger point can lessen or relieve pain.
Older Adults With Back Pain Are Less Satisfied With Their Retirement
Back pain may also have an effect on how long people work. For example, among adults age 51 and older who are completely retired, one-third of those with back pain, compared to less than one-fifth of those without back pain, report that poor health was very important in their retirement decision. Among retirees, those with back pain are less satisfied with their retirement .
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Everyday Tips For Chronic Back Pain
Your back pain could get better, and soon. There are many treatments that could help, from physical therapy to small but strategic changes in your daily routine. Even your breathing might make a difference!
First, ask your doctor what might be the cause of your back pain and how to treat it. They might recommend physical therapy or occupational therapy.
Next, add in these nine everyday habits:
1. Use your breath. When the pain kicks in, itâs easy to tense up. Instead, try to breathe deeply. You may want to visualize the breath going to the area that hurts. This will help you relax. You can also try other stress management techniques, including meditation.
2. Rethink your good days. Itâs great to feel better. But you may feel tempted to do a lot of stuff to make up for the times you werenât able to. So ask yourself, Are my goals realistic? Pace yourself. Itâs one of the keys to getting things done without a pain backlash.
3. Challenge yourself physically. Are you taking it too easy? If you think that you canât be active because of your back pain, thatâs understandable but misguided. Activity helps as long as itâs not too hard, too long, or too much. Exercises that strengthen your back and abdominal muscles can help prevent injury. Ask your doctor or physical therapist whatâs best for you.
Is Back Pain A Common Symptom Of Covid
A survey conducted by Survivor Corps, a Facebook support group for COVID-19 survivors, and Natalie Lambert, Ph.D., of Indiana Universitys School of Medicine, found COVID-19 long-haulerspeople who have technically recovered from COVID-19, but still experience long-term symptoms or side effectsreported experiencing lower-, upper-, and mid-back pain.
Back pain due to COVID-19 is grouped in with general muscle aches or pains, which the CDC lists as an official symptom. A February 2020 report from the World Health Organization analyzed nearly 56,000 cases of COVID-19 in China, and found that nearly 15% of patients experienced muscle aches and pains.
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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.
What Causes Or Increases My Risk For Chronic Back Pain
- A condition that affects your spine, joints, or muscles, such as arthritis, muscle tension, or breakdown of spinal discs
- Lack of regular physical activity
- Repeated bending, lifting, or twisting, or lifting heavy items
- Obesity or pregnancy
- Injury from a fall or accident
- Driving, sitting, or standing for long periods
- Bad posture while sitting or standing
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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.
Can Lower Back Pain Be Related To Weather
If you feel like your lower back pain worsens on days when its cold or the weather is changing, you are not imagining things. Back pain can indeed be related to barometric pressure and outdoor temperature. Changes in pressure can sometimes cause pain in arthritic joints, including the spine. Muscles and joints in general react to the environment, which can make them stiffer and more likely to suffer an injury.
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Chronic Neck Pain Can Be Complex
Multiple factors may be involved in chronic neck pain, and these factors can vary from person to person. For example, research indicates that chronic neck pain is more common in people who have anxiety, depression, or other mental health issues.3 While the reason is unknown, it may be related to various types of ongoing stress, such as social isolation or financial struggles.4 It is also possible that people who are prone to anxiety and/or depression perceive pain differently.
The underlying cause of neck pain is not always possible to identify. When a doctor performs a thorough medical examination but is unable to diagnose the source of neck pain, it is unlikely that the pain is due to a serious or life-threatening cause. In such instances, the pain is still real and a pain management program is still important.
Common Causes Of Chronic Lower Back Pain
“Chronic lower back pain is less likely to be caused by injury to your muscles and ligaments and more likely to be due to issues with the lumbar disks, nerves, joints or vertebrae,” says Dr. Palmer. “There are several potential causes of chronic pain in the lower back.”
In general, osteoarthritis and degenerative disk disease are the underlying cause of many types of chronic lower back pain. However, lower back pain can also be caused by accident-related trauma and acute stress.
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Types Of Back Pain: Middle Back Pain Vs Thoracic Back Pain
When it comes to back pain, one size doesnt fit all. Not only can pain occur anywhere along the spine or in the adjoining muscles, but it can vary drastically in intensity and frequency. Because the spine is the casing that protects the most important elements of the Central Nervous System, back pain of any kind can be a warning sign of damage that should be taken seriously. Left untreated, some causes of back pain can lead to permanent spine or nerve damage.
Types of Back Pain
Back pain of any kind can be either acute or chronic. If the pain is acute, symptoms are generally sudden and temporary. In chronic cases, however, the pain returns regularly, over timesometimes unpredictablyand can make everyday activities difficult.
Back pain can occur for a variety of reasons, including the following:
- Muscle strains
- Muscle injury
- Narrowing of the spinal canal
- Vertebral fracture
- The natural processes of aging
- Degenerative disc disease
The regions of the back and spine can be separated into multiple sections: the cervical region , the thoracic region , and the lumbar region . The middle back is a somewhat generalized term that refers the area below the ribs and above the hips.
Thoracic Back Pain
Middle Back Pain
There are a number of elements that can increase a persons risk of developing middle back pain, including the following:
Treatment of Back Pain
Weill Cornell Medicine: Comprehensive Spine
One In Four Adults With Back Pain Is In Fair To Poor Physical Health
Compared to adults without back pain, larger proportions of adults with any type of back pain report fair to poor mental and physical health. For example, the proportion of adults with back pain reporting fair to poor physical health 25 percent is more than double that of those without back pain 11 percent .
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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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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
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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Chronic Pain As A Disease: Why Does It Still Hurt
Despite the toll chronic pain takessurveys estimate that 11 to 40 percent of Americans are dealing with chronic pain1,2 chronic pain has not always been well understood. The medical profession used to believe that pain was always a manifestation of an underlying injury or disease. Doctors focused on treating the cause of the pain, with the belief that the chronic pain would disappear once the injury or disease was cured.
If no underlying cause could be found, the patient was told that very few treatments are available, or worsethat the pain must be in your head. Some doctors still practice in this manner, having no appreciation for the unique problem of chronic pain, newer theories about chronic pain, and the many factors that influence a chronic pain problem.
Fortunately, efforts to focus public attention on the problem of chronic pain care have been encouraging in recent years. A National Pain Strategy, drawing on the efforts of patient advocates, scientists, and governmental experts, was released in 2016 by the Department of Health and Human Services. The strategy proposed improved access to quality care and better tracking to determine which therapies are most effective.
Can I Prevent Lower Back Pain
You cant prevent lower back pain that results from disease or structural problems in the spine. But you can avoid injuries that cause back pain.
To reduce your risk of a back injury, you should:
- Maintain a healthy weight: Excess weight puts pressure on vertebrae and disks.
- Strengthen your abdominal muscles: Pilates and other exercise programs strengthen core muscles that support the spine.
- Lift the right way: To avoid injuries, lift with your legs . Hold heavy items close to your body. Try not to twist your torso while youre lifting.
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