The older we get the more frequently lower back pain seems to strike. Whether bending
over to tie a shoe, playing with the grandkids, or getting checked a little too hard while driving for a lay-up on the basketball court, you never know when a slight tweak can occur that will leave you stiff and moaning like Boris Karloff in The Mummy.
Lower back pain happens to nearly everyone at some point, and can cause serious pain and discomfort. Fortunately, in most cases lower back pain will subside on its own. However, when the pain lingers for too long, there are effective treatments that can help to alleviate your discomfort and get you back moving around freely again.
What is Lower Back Pain?
Any pain located in the lumbar region, the area of the back located below the ribcage, is considered lower back pain. Lower back pain can cause a number of symptoms, from a mild throbbing to a shooting or stabbing sensation that makes standing or sitting extremely uncomfortable. Acute lower back pain occurs suddenly, and is often the result of a sport or heavy lifting injury. Pain in the lumbar region that doesn’t fade within three months is considered a chromic condition, and may require surgery to resolve. You should consult with a doctor if any pain in your back does not get better within 72 hours.
In certain instances, severe back pain may require that you that seek immediate medical attention. If you experience such symptoms as loss of bladder or bowel control, weakness in the legs, fever, or pain when couching or urinating along in addition to back pain, you should contact your doctor or seek medical assistance.
Causes of Lower Back Pain
Lower back pain generally stems from one of two reasons. Back pain that occurs following heavy lifting or from exercising too hard is often caused by a muscle strain. This type of lower back pain will generally heal within a few days. Sometimes, however, back pain can be caused by a bulging or ruptured disc, which can cause intense pain when it presses upon the sciatic nerve. This type of pain may run from the buttock down one leg, as is referred to as sciatica.
A number of activities can lead to back pain, including:
- Your Job: If you have a job that requires a great deal of lifting, pulling, or movements that twist the spine, you may experience occasional back pain. However, it’s not just construction workers, nurses, and waiters that can experience back pain from their work conditions. Individuals who sit at a desk all day may begin to feel back pain if they use an uncomfortable chair or tend to slouch while at their desk.
- Your Bag: Whether you carry a purse, backpack, or messenger bag over your shoulder, it’s your lower back that supports the weight of the upper body. This includes any additional weight you may carry around. A heavy bag can strain your lower back, especially if you carry the bag with you everyday.
- Your Posture: As we just discussed, your lower back carries the brunt of the weight carried by your entire upper body. Your back can best support this weight when you don’t slouch. This means you need to keep your weight evenly balanced on both feet when standing, and that you keep your shoulders back and feet resting on the ground when sitting.
- Your Workout: Getting a little too physical while at the gym or on the golf course is one of the most common causes of pulled muscles that lead to lower back pain. You are at greater risk of suffering a back injury when exercising if you tend to be inactive during the week, and then spend several hours at the gym or course on the weekends.
Back Pain Remedies
Back pain caused by muscle stains will normally get better on their own given a few days of rest. To help alleviate your discomfort, try using a heating pad or taking a warm bath to provide temporary relief. Even though you probably won’t feel like getting up and about after suffering a back strain, doctors recommend getting back on your feet as soon as possible. Resist the urge to lie in bed for more than a day or two, as any more time off your feet may actually cause the pain to worsen.
Back pain that persists for longer than three months can be treated through a variety of methods, including yoga, acupuncture, prescription medication, spinal manipulation, message therapy, and surgery. If you experience chronic back pain, consult with your doctor to find the treatment methods that is right for you.
Timothy Lemke blogs about living a healthy lifestyle for Dr. Lance Bailey, a dentist in Portland OR at Downtown Dental Care.