Plagued by Low Back Pain? Here’s What You Can Do…
If you’re suffering with low back pain, you’re far from alone. It is one of the most common kinds of back pain and it seems to affect pretty much all of us at some point in life.
Does knowing this make it any easier? Well, perhaps not… but it may help to know that lower back pain can usually be sorted with a little patience, persistence, or assistance.
Pain in the lower back region is most likely to happen from your thirties onward, statistically speaking; you may also be more prone to occurrences as you age.
Your lower back officially starts below your ribcage. If you’re experiencing back pain in this region, you’ll know that it’s difficult to ignore.
This kind of pain can be very debilitating, preventing you from carrying out your usual activities or even moving around at all.
Typical causes of lower back pain are excess body weight, inertia, poor posture and heavy lifting. However, there are plenty of other causes to be aware of.
The good news is that low back pain often disappears of its own accord… but if this isn’t happening for you, there are things you can do.
Read on for more information.
Symptoms of low back pain
Typical symptoms may present as follows:
• A dull ache
• Stabbing or shooting pains
• Muscle spasms
• Difficulty standing up straight or moving around
If these symptoms are hanging around for more than a few days or weeks, or you’re moving around like the Hunchback of Notre Dame, there may be a more serious problem.
If you have had it for over three months, you probably have a chronic problem. That’s obviously going to encroach on your quality of life.
It is also unlikely to go away without treatment of some kind.
Symptoms of acute low back problems:
More severe symptoms could occur along with the actual pain in the lower back, which could be indicative of a more serious problem:
• Sharp pains or excruciating spasms (especially after sports injury or heavy lifting)
• Inability to move at all
• Numbness in the groin
• Loss of bowel or bladder control
• Weakness of the legs
• Shooting or throbbing nerve pains down the legs
What kind of low back pain do you have?
1. Muscular strain
For the gym bunnies or hard laborers, you’re likely to be at a higher risk of lower back pain from muscular strains and over-extended muscles.
It’s easy to get carried away in the gym. People prone to an “all or nothing” workout attitude may find that they sustain muscular injuries more often.
This is one of the main causes of lower back pain, but your body may well be able to work its own healing magic.
If you’re getting burning, stinging or tingling pains in your buttock and/or legs, and you can’t walk or sit comfortably, you may have sciatica.
What causes sciatica? In short, usually a bulging or ruptured spinal disc pressing on the lower lumbar nerve roots or, less commonly, the sciatic nerve…
This hurts (a lot, we won’t lie) and may even render you motionless. So if you suspect this problem you should be seeking medical assistance immediately.
Given the intensity of sciatic nerve pain, the chances are you’ll already have called the Doc if you’ve got it.
3. Herniated discs
The vertebrae in your spine are separated by discs full of gel-like fluid, which prevent the vertebrae from grinding together (cringe!).
Unfortunately, as we get older or sustain injuries, these discs can weaken.
A herniated disc means that the fluid escapes out of the shell of the disc and pressures the nerves in the area.
Like sciatica, the pain can be very intense and is likely to require some treatment.
Common causes of low back pain
As we mentioned at the start of the article, excess body weight, inertia, poor posture and heavy lifting are the most common causes of lower back pain.
We also mentioned the muscular strains triggered by workout routines… But don’t be fooled: avoiding physical activity won’t get you off the hook!
Sitting at a desk all day is just as likely to give you that nagging pain in the lower back. This is especially true for those who are slouch-prone: sitting or walking incorrectly can lead to imbalances in alignment and consequently, pain.
Do you tend to carry a heavy handbag, briefcase or backpack? This is another back-defeating habit.
If you’re the type to stuff your bags full of non-essential items, it may be time to embrace the old adage that says: “Less is more…” or choose bags with wheels.
There are also more serious spinal conditions that can cause lower back pain. Spinal stenosis is one, and spondylitis (inflammation of the spinal joints) is another.
Similarly, those diagnosed with fibromyalgia may experience pain in this region. Your Doctor should be the one to confirm this―so don’t rely on Google alone.
How to treat pain in the lower back
If your pain hasn’t completely knocked you sideways, you may find that you can treat it at home with some of the following products or protocols:
• Heats pads or hot water bottles
• Warm baths
• Over the counter painkillers such as ibuprofen, acetaminophen or naproxen
• Natural pain killers like CBD oil or topical DMSO gel
• Gentle stretching
Making an effort to correct an awkward gait or unhealthy sitting position may help. By correcting your posture from time to time, you will develop habits less likely to challenge your lower back.
It may also help to use a lumbar support or rest your feet on a low stool if sat at a desk for extended periods.
Although it may be tempting to get horizontal and minimize movement in order to counteract the pain, you’re asking for stiffness if you do this for too long. You could end up making your back pain worse.
If it’s so bad that you don’t want to move (and especially if this goes on for days), you probably need professional assistance.
Gentle exercise is a good way to counteract muscle stiffness, so some gentle cardio and stretching may loosen things up.
Yoga is a great choice for those with niggling back pain. This is so because the postures are designed to stretch and strengthen at the same time. If taking instruction, let your teacher know you have back issues and don’t attempt anything too tricky or challenging.
You may benefit from muscle strengthening via flexion and extension exercises. This can stretch out and/or develop the back and hip muscles.
It is worth consulting a professional to get a diagnosis and ensure you’re doing the right type of lower back exercises. Otherwise, you risk making the problem worse.
Manipulation and therapies
If your lower back pain isn’t going away on its own, depending on your diagnosis, you may benefit from consulting a chiropractor or osteopath to realign your spine.
Physiotherapy may be necessary for chronic issues that aren’t responding well to manipulation techniques; your therapist will give you stretches and strengthening exercises to do.
If the problem is solely muscular, a qualified deep tissue or sports massage therapist may be able to release muscular tension for you.
Acupuncture has also yielded good results for some. Since it’s not very invasive, all you have to lose is a little cash if it turns out not to be the one.
If your lower back pain is severe or chronic, you may need prescription stronger prescription painkillers from your Doctor. You may be given a steroid injection in the back, such as a ‘nerve root block’, which calms irritated nerves.
Worst-case scenario―if you have tried whatever you treatments you can and your back pain won’t budge―surgery may be necessary. This is sometimes offered for removal of problematic herniated discs.
Lower back pain doesn’t have to be something you learn to live with. Although it’s difficult to avoid the wear and tear that comes with aging, there are usually solutions available.
It may take a little trial and error, but one way or another you should be able to find a way to ease (and hopefully prevent future recurrences of) your pain.
Thanks for reading… MedFanatic is here to help with all areas of your health and wellbeing, so keep an eye on our blogs for health education, tips and insights.