Do you have regular lower backaches? You are not alone. Almost 80% of people in the society suffer from back pain at some point in their life. The lower back, which starts below the rib cage is called the lumbar region. This pain is intense and is the leading cause for empty desks at work and long queues in hospitals. Fortunately, lower back pain gets better with time when approached in the right way.
The lumbar spine consists of interconnecting bones, joints, nerves, muscles, and ligaments all working together to provide support, flexibility, and strength to the back. However, this complex structure also leaves the lower back prone to injuries and pain.
Functions of the Lumbar Spine
The lower back supports the body weight and helps in motion such as bending and twisting. The muscles in the lumbar region support the spinal column, helps in flexing and rotating the hips while walking. The nerves in this region radiate sensation and power the muscles in the pelvis and legs.
Most lumbar pain results from a muscle, ligament, disc, or joint injury. The body reacts to injury by producing inflammation. Inflammation is simply the body’s defense mechanism to protect you from infections and foreign material. High inflammation levels can cause severe pain. Due to nerves overlap in this region, it can be difficult for the brain to pinpoint the cause of pain accurately.
Symptoms of Lower Back Pain
Lower back pain has a variety of symptoms and signs. It can be mild in some patients or severe in others. Lumbar pain can start suddenly, or it starts gradually (possibly coming and going) and slowly getting worse if untreated. The symptoms depend on the on the cause of pain. The signs include;
- Dull pain in the lower back.
- Stinging pain, tingling, and numbness radiating from the lower back to the thighs and legs (sciatica).
- Muscle tightness in the lumbar region, pelvis, and hips.
- Pain getting worse with prolonged sitting or standing.
- Difficulty in standing or sitting upright and imbalance while walking.
Severe back pain after an injury should be checked out by a doctor. Signs that you shouldn’t ignore include, bladder or bowel control, fever, and pain when passing urine or coughing.
Types of Lower Back Pain
There are three types of back pain which are classified according to their causes, severity, and duration of pain. They include;
Acute Lumbar Pain
Acute Lumbar Pain comes suddenly and lasts for a few days or weeks. This considered the body’s normal response to tissue damage or injury. The pain slowly subsides as the body heals or with treatment
Subacute Lumbar Pain
Subacute Lumbar pain is usually as a result of muscle strain or joint pain and lasts between seven weeks to three months. This pain is severe and can hinder patients from carrying out their daily activities. At this point, medical intervention may be considered.
Chronic Lumbar Pain
Chronic Lumbar Pain lasts for over three months. It’s usually severe and doesn’t respond to initial treatments. It requires a thorough medical diagnosis to determine the exact cause of the pain. Chronic pain is more of a disease rather than a symptom of another condition.
- Read more: Understand the different Types of Back Pain
Lower Back Pain Diagnosis
Getting accurate diagnosis on the cause of the back pain helps in the treatment guideline. The process of lower backache includes;
- First, the doctor asks the patient about his/ her medical history and symptoms. The doctor examines the extent of the pain, rage of the victim’s motion, and severe symptoms like tingling and numbness. The doctor also checks the patient’s activity level, sleeping habits, posture, or injuries.
- To narrow down the cause of the pain, a physical exam is needed. The doctor by hand feels your lower back to locate any tight or weak muscles. The neurologic exam takes place to test the patient’s reaction to slight touch, or other senses in the buttocks and legs.
- The patient’s cause of pain can be further determined by imaging scan. Imaging tests may be used in cases of severe pain, and the pain not resolving to treatment. The common imaging tests include x-ray, MRI, and CT scan.
Causes of Lower Back Pain
Lower back pain can be a result of various factors, ranging from old age to poor posture. When pain exceeds the body’s normal process of healing, it’s considered chronic. The primary causes of lumbar pain include;
Disc herniation occurs when the cushion located between the vertebrae are pushed out of their normal positions. Herniated disc becomes painful because the rupture puts pressure on the spinal nerves. When disc rupture occurs in the lumbar region, the spinal cord and nerves are pinched causing intense pain.
Repetitive Activities and Poor Posture
If your job involves lifting, pushing, bending, or twisting of the spine, it can contribute to lower backache. Sitting at a desk for too long also comes with risks of its own. Poor posture habits such as slouching, leaning on one leg, and sleeping on a saggy mattress contribute to back ache.
Degenerative Disc Disease
The discs act as shock absorbers making it possible for the spine to bend and twist. As you age, the discs start to wear and tear due to repetitive activities. Degenerative disc commonly occurs in the lumbar and cervical region. As people age, the discs lose hydration and flexibility leaving them vulnerable to wear and tear.
Chronic Lower back Conditions
There are several severe conditions that can cause lower back pain.These conditions include;
- Spinal stenosis a condition causing narrowing of the spaces around the spinal cord. This condition weakens the spine and puts pressure on the nerves causing pain.
- Spondylitis a condition leading to chronic back pain and stiffness due to inflammation of the spinal Treatments for Lower Back Pain
Fortunately, lower back pain tends to get better with time and simple home remedies. The main goal of medication is to relieve pain, but that doesn’t change the cause of pain. Doctors will recommend medicine and physical regime.
Rest and Medication
Take a break from daily activities and give your back a rest. According to research, 80% of back pain resolves within five weeks. Rest for a few days and slowly resume your daily activities. Painkillers such as ibuprofen, help in relieving back pain. Some medications have side effects, so seek a doctor’s advice.
Apply Ice and Heat
After 48 Hours when the pain sets in, apply ice to the affected area. Apply for 20 minutes each day after exercising. Ice reduces blood flow to the affected area, which eases the swelling. After a while switch to the heat therapy. Heat loosens tight muscles, and increases circulation, supplying oxygen to the back.
Using a Comfortable Mattress and Pillow
We sleep 1/3 of our lives. With that much practice, one would think we’d all be expert sleepers. Unfortunately, not everyone gets quality sleep due to poor posture and uncomfortable mattress. Lack of proper support causes bad posture, muscle tightness, and back pain. Choose a mattress and pillow that support your back, neck, and is comfortable.
Let’s take care of our bodies and prevent lower back pain in the future. Eat a healthy diet, keep your body hydrated and exercise regularly.