What is Lower Back Pain?
Lower back pain is a condition described as pain in the lower back or lumbar region. The pain is characterized as mild to severe and often causes discomfort. It can be acute (sudden and severe) or chronic (if it has lasted for more than three months). This condition affects any group but tends to be common amongst younger people, especially those who participate in strenuous, physical activities.
Diagnosing Lower Back Pain
The symptoms and signs of lower back pain include:
- Mild to severe pain across the lower and middle back that may travel into the hips, buttocks, back of the thighs and groin area
- Muscle spasms around the spine
- Movement of the spine is limited when bending forward and leaning backwards
- Change in posture as a result of severe pain and spasm in lower back region
- Tingling sensation and numbness in the back, buttocks or legs
If lower back pain persists and back pain has worsened, consult your physician immediately. A complete physical examination will be performed and medical history taken. Tests may such as x-rays, MRI (magnetic resonance imaging), CT scans (computerized tomography), bone scan, discography, myelography and electrodiagnostic studies may be ordered if pain is severe and to rule out any other underlying disorders.
Certain warning signs that are a cause for concern include loss of bladder or bowel movement, numbness in the lower back or legs and reduced strength or muscle bulk in one or both legs. These signs may point to compression of the spinal cord and immediate treatment is required.
What Causes Lower Back Pain?
Lower back pain may be caused by several conditions such as degenerative changes, traumatic injuries or accidents, inflammation, bacterial or viral infections, congenital and metabolic diseases or a tumor. It may as a result of traumatic injuries or accidents such as lumbar strains and sprains, vertebral fractures or musculoskeletal injuries.
Degenerative diseases such as slipped disc, scoliosis, spinal stenosis, and spondylitic disease causes pain, muscle spasm and inflammation. Inflammations such as arachnoiditis and arthritis cause lower back pain as do bacterial or viral infections such as meningitis, vertebral osteomyelitis, epidural abscess or urinary tract infections.
Congenital diseases such as spondylosis and metabolic diseases such as osteoporosis also cause the symptoms of lower back pain. Tumors can also bring about severe and debilitating pain in the lumbar region. Other external factors that may also contribute to lower back pain includes a sedentary lifestyle, poor posture, aging obesity and hereditary factors. Pregnancy, smoking, psychological and work-related factors increases the risk of lower back pain.
Help for Lower Back Pain
Lower back pain can very easily be treated at home, particularly if symptoms are mild. To relieve pain and discomfort, use over-the–counter medications such as ibuprofen or paracetamol or apply a heating pad to the affected area. In more severe cases, your physician will prescribe NSAIDs, muscle relaxants or triggerpoint and ligament injection.
Other beneficial treatments include TENS (trans electrical nerve stimulation), back exercises, spinal manipulation and EMG feedback. Massage, acupuncture, biofeedback and hydrotherapy are also very effective to relax and reduce muscle pain.
Natural treatments such as herbal and homeopathic remedies are a safer, gentler alternative to relieve back pain and discomfort. Herbs such as Harpagophytum procumbens (Devil’s Claw) helps to promote healthy joints and acts as a digestive tonic while Glucosamine sulphate repairs joints and cartilages. Boswellia serata is another excellent herb that promotes joint and muscle comfort and benefits digestion.
More Information on Lower Back Pain
Tips to prevent with lower back pain
- Exercise regularly by swimming, cycling or walking
- Practice back and abdominal exercises to strengthen your back
- Warm up and cool down before and after you have exercised
- Improve your posture by learning to "walk tall", "sit straight" or practice stretching exercises
- Sleep on a firm mattress to provide your back with the necessary support
- Maintain a healthy weight to prevent back discomfort
- Use a firm, supportive chair (ergonomic chair) when working at your desk
- Avoid lifting a heavy load
- Adjust your car seat when traveling long distances to reduce strain on the back
- Reduce stress by learning relaxation techniques such a meditation, yoga or visualization