Lower back pain is one of the most common ailments every individual suffers from at least once in their lifetime. In fact, as per a study conducted in 2020, lower back pain was considered to be the most common reason for absence from work.
Additionally, lower back pain can vary in intensity and may be accompanied by stiffness or muscle spasms. Proper diagnosis of the underlying cause is crucial, as it can range from muscle strains to more serious conditions like herniated discs or spinal stenosis. Treatment options often include a combination of physical therapy, pain medications, and lifestyle changes to manage and alleviate the discomfort.
Symptoms of Lower Back Pain
Simply put, the symptoms of lower back pain can either appear gradually or in an instant. Sometimes the cause of lower back pain can be due to you bending down to pick up an object, whereas in other instances, you may not be able to pinpoint the actual reason for your back pain.
Types of Lower Back Pain
There are various types of lower back pain, each with its unique characteristics and causes. Some common types include acute back pain, which lasts for a short duration due to injuries or strains, and chronic back pain, persisting for more than three months and often associated with degenerative conditions.
Other types may include radicular pain, which radiates down the legs, and sciatica, caused by compression of the sciatic nerve. Proper identification of the type of lower back pain is essential for an accurate treatment approach.
The pain level can vary as well and most often than not if you have strained your back during an activity, you may hear a “pop” when it happens. While these are some of the most common symptoms here are a few other ones:
- Stiffness after waking up.
- Muscle Spasms
- Inability to stand erect.
Common Causes of Lower Back Pain
Now, since lower back pain is such a common ailment, there is no particular one reason that causes it. Like we said before, it can be by performing a simple task such as bending over to pick up something or medical conditions such as scoliosis. With that said, here are some of the major causes of lower back pain:
Muscle Strain and Sprains
Muscle strain and sprains are among the most prevalent causes of lower back pain. These injuries often occur due to sudden movements, overexertion, or improper lifting techniques. Strained muscles or ligaments can lead to localized pain, stiffness, and limited range of motion. Proper rest, gentle stretching, and avoiding repetitive strenuous activities can aid in the healing process.
Herniated discs, also known as slipped or ruptured discs, are another common cause of lower back pain. They occur when the soft inner material of a spinal disc protrudes through a crack in the tough outer layer, putting pressure on nearby nerves. This condition can lead to sharp or shooting pain, tingling, numbness, or weakness in the legs. Treatment options may include rest, physical therapy, pain medications, and in severe cases, surgical intervention.
Spinal stenosis refers to the narrowing of the spinal canal, leading to compression of the spinal cord and nerves. This condition can result from degenerative changes in the spine, causing chronic lower back pain, as well as radiating pain, numbness, or weakness in the legs. Physical therapy, anti-inflammatory medications, and corticosteroid injections are some of the treatment approaches used to manage spinal stenosis. In severe cases, surgery may be necessary to relieve pressure on the affected nerves.
Diagnosis of Lower Back Pain
- Medical History: Gathering information about the patient’s symptoms, duration of pain, any previous injuries, and medical history helps in understanding the context of the pain and its potential causes.
- Physical Examination: A thorough physical examination of the back, spine, and surrounding areas is conducted to check for any signs of inflammation, muscle spasms, or nerve-related issues.
- Imaging Tests: X-rays are often used to visualize the bones and identify any fractures or structural abnormalities. Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) and Computed Tomography (CT) scans provide more detailed images of soft tissues, discs, and nerves, helping to detect herniated discs, spinal stenosis, or other conditions.
- Diagnostic Procedures: In some cases, specialized diagnostic procedures may be required to pinpoint the exact cause of back pain. Discography involves injecting a dye into the spinal discs to identify if they are the source of pain. Nerve conduction studies assess nerve function and identify any nerve-related problems.
Lower Back Pain Treatment
- Analgesics and Anti-inflammatory Medications: Over-the-counter pain relievers like acetaminophen or nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) can help alleviate pain and reduce inflammation in the affected area.
- Physical Therapy and Exercise Programs: Physical therapy is a crucial component of treatment for lower back pain. Therapists can design personalized exercise programs to strengthen the core muscles, improve flexibility, and promote proper posture, which aids in reducing pain and preventing future episodes.
- Heat and Cold Therapy: Applying heat packs or taking warm baths can help relax muscles and alleviate muscle spasms. Conversely, cold therapy with ice packs can reduce inflammation and numb the area, providing pain relief.
We hope this blog has helped you gain perspective on how you can diagnose and opt for lower back pain remedies. It is essential to remember that while self-care measures and home remedies can be beneficial for mild cases, if the pain is severe, persistent, or accompanied by other concerning symptoms, it is always better to consult a medical professional for advice.
Your health and comfort are of utmost importance, so don’t hesitate to seek professional guidance when needed.
Is lower back pain a serious problem?
In most cases, lower back pain may not be a serious problem. However, if the pain persists for more than a week or so, it is always recommended that you consult your physician for advice.
What are the causes of lower back pain?
The major causes of lower back pain are:
- Muscle Strain and Sprains
- Herniated Discs
- Spinal Stenosis
How can I relieve lower back pain?
To relieve lower back pain, you can try the following:
- Apply ice or heat
- Pain medications
- Light stretching
- Improve posture