About 8 in 10 people have one or more bouts of low back pain. In most cases, it is not due to a serious disease or serious back problem, and the exact cause of the pain is not clear. This is called nonspecific lower back pain.
Low back pain facts:
- Functions of the low back, or lumbar area, include structural support, movement, and protection of certain body tissues.
- Pain in the low back can be a result of conditions affecting the bony lumbar spine, discs between the vertebrae, ligaments around the spine and discs, spinal cord and nerves, muscles of the low back, internal organs of the pelvis and abdomen, and the skin covering the lumbar area.
- Treatment of low back pain is optimally directed toward a diagnosed or suspected specific cause. For acute lumbar strain, use of a home remedy initially can be beneficial.
Common Causes of Low Back Pain
- Manual materials handling
- Twisting of the trunk
- Bending the trunk forward
- Bending the trunk to the side
- Excessive reaching
- Prolonged sitting
- Sedentary jobs
- Highly physical jobs
- Exposure to whole-body vibration
- Cigarette smoking
- Extreme tallness
Nearly everyone will experience some form of back pain in his or her lifetime. The low back is the area behind the belly from the rib cage to the pelvis and is also called the lumbar region. Back pain is a major cause of missed work. Low back pain usually resolves on its own and is commonly the result of a strain injury. There are many treatments for low back pain.
At Risk for Lower Back Pain?
Low back pain can start in a person’s early twenties and continue on throughout adulthood. Studies have shown that up to 80% of the general population are affected by low back pain (LBP) at some time during their lives. Learn to prevent lower back pain by knowing what activities could be putting you at risk.
Low Back Pain Symptoms: Does Your Back Hurt?
Low back pain symptoms range from sharp and stabbing to a dull ache. The pains can be constant or intermittent and positional. Acute low back pain can appear suddenly after injury. Chronic back pain is defined as pain lasting more than three months. Consult a doctor if you have prolonged back pain longer than 72 hours.
Is Your Job Causing Back Pain?
A job that involves pulling, lifting, or twisting with the low back can cause injury and low back pain. Even prolonged sitting in an awkward position can cause low back pain. Standing on your feet for hours on end? That can cause lower back pain too. The best way to prevent back pain is to know if you are at risk.
Jobs That Can Cause Lower Back Pain
- Airline crew
- Nurses & healthcare workers
- Bus and cab drivers
- Warehouse workers
- Construction workers
- Carpet installers and cleaners
- Firefighters and police
- Office personnel
Treatment for lower back pain depends upon the patient’s history and the type and severity of pain. The vast majority of lower back pain cases get better within six weeks without surgery, and lower back pain exercises are almost always part of a treatment plan.
If pain persists or worsens, more involved diagnostic and surgical procedures may be recommended.
- Rest: Ceasing activity for a few days allows injured tissue and even nerve roots to begin to heal, which in turn will help relieve lower back pain. However, more than a few days of rest can lead to a weakening of the muscles, and weak muscles have to struggle to adequately support the spine. Patients who do not regularly exercise to build strength and flexibility are more likely to experience recurrent or prolonged lower back pain.
- Heat and Ice Packs: Heat and/or cold therapy helps relieve most types of low back pain by reducing inflammation. Often patients use ice, but some prefer heat. Both may be used alternately.
- Medications: A wide variety of over-the-counter and prescription medications is available to help reduce lower back pain. Many medications reduce inflammation, which is often a cause of pain, while others work to inhibit the transmission of pain signals from reaching the brain. Each medication has multiple unique risks, possible side effects and drug interactions, which need to be evaluated by a physician.