How Can I Prevent Low Back Pain
You can prevent low back pain with physical therapy, exercises, and stretching. Supports and back belts do not prevent low back pain.
Keep in shape, lose weight if you are overweight, and exercise regularly. Being inactive can lead to low back pain. Regular exercise like walking, swimming, or biking is good for your back. These activities put less stress on your back than sitting and standing.
Don’t lift heavy objects by bending over at the waist. Bend your hips and knees and then squat to pick up the object. Keep your back straight and hold the object close to your body. Don’t twist your body while you are lifting.
If you have to sit at your desk or drive for a long time, take breaks to stretch.
Bottom Line: Having Back Pain Doesnt Automatically Mean You Have Covid
Although aches and pains can be a sign of COVID-19, other conditions or injuries are more commonly associated with back pain, including sitting too much and poor posture, which you may be dealing with if youve been working from home. A sports injury, arthritis, a bulging disc in the spine, or osteoporosis could also be to blame.
If your back pain persists more than a few weeks, becomes more severe over time, or is accompanied by unexplained weight loss or numbness in the limbs, talk to your doctor to ensure a proper diagnosis.
If you have other signs of COVID-19, your doctor can guide you on getting tested and explain how to treat your symptoms at home if your illness is considered mild. Dr. Duda recommends taking acetaminophen , which will reduce pain and fever, and applying a heating pad to the back to help relieve aches and spasming. Getting plenty of rest and staying hydrated will be helpful, too.
As you recover, note that body aches from COVID-19 can linger for up to two weeks for most people, Dr. Watkins said, but rest assured the muscle pain usually isnt incapacitating.
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Chronic Low Back Pain Of No Specific Origin
Low back pain is defined as pain, tightness, and stiffness between the lower end of the rib cage and the buttocks. “Chronic” means the pain has lasted for twelve weeks or longer, and “no specific origin” means the pain cannot be traced to any specific cause, incident, or injury.
Most susceptible are individuals who perform heavy physical work, especially when there is ongoing anxiety, depression, and emotional stress at the same time. The longer the stress and back pain continue, the more difficult it is to ease the symptoms and return the patient to normal functioning.
Treatment involves nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs and sometimes opioid medications for pain, though both have risks when used long term. Antidepressants may also be tried, along with psychological counseling.
Corticosteroid injections for the back are effective for some patients, and fusion surgery is sometimes attempted. Lifestyle changes in the form of improved diet, exercise, and stress management are very helpful in most cases.
Top Symptoms: lower back pain, unintentional weight loss, back pain that shoots to the butt, fever, involuntary defecation
Symptoms that always occur with chronic low back pain of no specific origin: lower back pain
Symptoms that never occur with chronic low back pain of no specific origin: thigh numbness, buttocks numbness, lower back pain from an injury
Urgency: Primary care doctor
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The Tricky One: Cancer As A Cause Of Low Back Pain And The Necessity Of Testing Just In Case When The Symptoms Justify It
Sorry I have to use the C word I know its kind of a bummer. But C happens.
A few cancers in their early stages can be hard to tell apart from ordinary back pain a bone cancer in the vertebrae, for instance and these create a frustrating diagnostic problem. They are too rare for doctors to inflict cancer testing on every low back pain patient just in case. And yet the possibility cannot be dismissed, either! This is an unsolveable problem.
Most cancers and ominous problems will inevitably start to cause other, distinctive, ominous symptoms, and it wont be long before someone catches on that theres more going on than just back pain. So it truly is an extraordinary circumstance for back pain to be ominous without causing other symptoms that raise the alarm.
For example, in 2017, the New England Journal of Medicine reported on a creepy case of slowly growing neurological deficit caused by a very stealthy cancer, which took a lot of diagnostic effort to solve.25shudder So sneaky cancers happen but they are crazy rare.
This is an unholy combination of factors: the exact same symptoms can have either an extremely rare but serious cause, or an extremely common but harmless cause that can be greatly aggravated by excessive alarm!
My favourite epitaph: I told you I was sick!
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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Or You Could Be Dying What Are The Odds That Back Pain Is Something Scary
Of course there are cases of low back pain that have alarming causes, but its reassuringly rare. Once in a while back pain is a warning sign of cancer, autoimmune disease, infection, or a handful of other scary culprits.7 Over the age of 55, about one in twenty cases turns out to be a fracture, and one in a hundred is more ominous.8 The further you are from 55, the better your odds.
But how can you tell? It can be tricky. This is a concise, readable guide to symptoms that need better-safe-than-sorry investigation with your doctor. In other words, this article explains the difference between dangerous and just painful as clearly as possible. Tables, checklists, and examples ahead.
Medical Conditions That Cause Back Pain
Conditions that can cause back pain include:
- a slipped disc this can cause back pain and numbness, tingling and weakness in other parts of the body
- sciatica this can cause pain, numbness, tingling and weakness in the lower back, buttocks, legs and feet
- ankylosing spondylitis this causes pain and stiffness that’s usually worse in the morning and improves with movement
- spondylolisthesis this can cause lower back pain and stiffness, as well as numbness and a tingling sensation
These conditions are treated differently to non-specific back pain.
Very rarely, back pain can be a sign of a serious problem such as:
- a broken bone in the spine
- an infection
- cauda equina syndrome
- some types of cancer, such as multiple myeloma
If you see a GP with back pain, they’ll look for signs of these.
Page last reviewed: 14 January 2020 Next review due: 14 January 2023
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Preventing Back Pain In Children
Back pain in secondary-school-age children has been linked to heavy schoolbags and ill-fitting classroom seating. Nearly half of all teenagers in the UK have experienced occasional backache from poor posture, carrying overloaded bags, and an unhealthy lifestyle.
The best schoolbag for your child is a well designed backpack. This should be worn over both shoulders to balance out the weight. A heavy satchel or shoulder bag can put stress on your childs spine.
Encourage your child to exercise regularly, or plan joint activities, such as a walk in the countryside or a trip to a swimming pool.
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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Mechanical Lower Back Pain
Because it represents 97% of cases, mechanical low back pain deserves to be discussed first. To determine the factors that bring out the pain, the doctor will consider the following causes of mechanical low back pain:
- Muscle strain.
- Spondylolisthesis .
- Osteoarthritis .
- Spinal stenosis .
Low back pain that gets worse with sitting may indicate a herniated lumbar disc . This is because certain positions of the body can change the amount of pressure that an out-of-place disc can press on a nerve. This is one reason we suggest to people with low back pain to periodically get up and stretch or walk around rather than continually stay sitting. Acute onset, that is, pain that comes on suddenly, may suggest a herniated disc or a muscle strain, as opposed to a more gradual onset of pain, which fits more with osteoarthritis, spinal stenosis, or spondylolisthesis.
Change Up Your Sleep Position Or Mattress
Switching to a more supportive sleep position can reduce lower back pain. Also consider how you can use pillows or invest in a new mattress to support better spinal alignment and relieve lower back pain.
Research suggests medium firm mattresses are the best mattresses for back pain. In one study of people with low back pain, those who slept on medium firm mattresses reported lower pain scores both during sleep and upon getting up in the morning.
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Can Further Bouts Of Back Pain Be Prevented
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.
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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The Big Three Signs That You Should Investigate For An Ominous Cause Of Persistent Low Back Pain
You shouldnt worry about low back pain until three conditions have been met:
The presence of the big three does not confirm that something horrible is going on. It only means that you need to check carefully.
Andy Whitfield as Spartacus
At his physical peak, not long before getting sick. The first sign of his cancer was steadily worsening back pain. He may have already been in pain at this time.
The story of actor Andy Whitfield is a disturbing and educational example of a case that met these conditions for sure the first two, and probably the third as well if we knew the details. Whitfield was the star of the hit TV show Spartacus . The first sign of the cancer that killed him in 2011 was steadily worsening back pain. Its always hard to diagnose a cancer that starts this way, but Whitfield was in the middle of intense physical training to look the part of historys most famous gladiator. Back pain didnt seem unusual at first, and some other symptoms may have been obscured. Weight loss could have even seemed like a training victory at first! It was many long months before he was diagnosed not until the back pain was severe and constant. A scan finally revealed a large tumour pressing against his spine.
Is back pain a symptom of COVID-19?
Chronic Or Acute Pain
- Acute pain starts suddenly and lasts for up to 6 weeks.
- Chronic or long-term pain develops over a longer period, lasts for over 3 months, and causes ongoing problems.
If a person has both occasional bouts of more intense pain and fairly continuous mild back pain, it can be hard for a doctor to determine whether they have acute or chronic back pain.
Back pain usually resolves with rest and home remedies, but sometimes medical treatment is necessary.
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Living With Back Pain
Living with back pain can be hard however, most people feel better within 6 weeks. Remember to follow your doctors directions. These tips may make it easier for you to manage your pain and recover:
- Add exercises slowly and talk to your doctor about the types of exercises that are best for you or those that you should not do.
- When sitting for a long time, get up, move around, and switch positions frequently.
- Wear shoes that feel good and that have a low heel.
- When driving a long way, try using support behind your back, and stop frequently to stand up and walk around.
- Sleep on your side, and place a small pillow between your knees. If you tend to sleep on your back, place a pillow under your knees. If possible, try to avoid sleeping on your stomach.
- Limit the amount you carry. Instead, make a few extra trips to avoid carrying too much weight.
What Can I Do To Help With The Pain
Try not to do things that make the pain worse, like sitting for a long time, lifting heavy objects, or bending or twisting.
Stick to your normal activities as much as you can. Gentle exercise like walking helps you get better more quickly.
Some over-the-counter medicines can help pain or swelling. These include ibuprofen , naproxen , and acetaminophen . Your doctor may give you medicine to help with pain or muscle spasms.
Try using heating pads or taking a warm bath or shower.
Your doctor can show you some gentle exercises to help stretch your back and make the muscles stronger.
A physical therapist, massage therapist, or chiropractor may help with your pain and make you feel better.
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Why Your Back Muscles Hurt
This may sound suspiciously like common sense, but your back muscles hurt when you pull them too far or place them under too much strain.
But contrary to common misperception, the underlying cause of this back muscle pain is not poor posture, how much you exercise or even your genetic history.
Instead, poor posture can be strong evidence of the real cause. Exercise of the wrong kind can make it worse . And the good news is you can do something about this underlying cause of back pain regardless of your genetics.
The root cause of virtually all non-trauma related back muscle pain and a major contributor to many back conditions like herniated discs are muscle imbalances.
One way to visualize muscle imbalances and how they cause back pain is to think of your car. If the wheels are out of alignment, the tires will wear unevenly, making them more susceptible to an early blowout.
Imbalanced muscles do the same thing to your back. Muscle pain results when one muscle or group of muscles overpowers an opposing set of muscles that get stretched out of shape.
And heres the kicker many of the muscles affecting your back pain arent in your back!
For example, sitting all day long leads to weak abs, glutes, and hamstrings which go unused much of the day. In the meanwhile, your hip flexors, quadriceps and lumbar muscles remain tight to keep you in an upright position.
This video explains how muscle imbalances affect your pain, and how to fix them.