We all know how important our back is in our lives. No matter what posture our body is in – sitting, standing, lying down, bending – our back plays a big role in supporting our body structurally and in movement. The lumbar area also protects the soft tissues of the spinal cord along with abdominal and pelvic organs.
These days, we have become quite conscious of health risks and take preventative measures against disorders and diseases such as cancer and diabetes. But we don’t give much thought to the health of our lower back because of which many of us end up having to deal with lower back pain.
Thanks to the neverending rat race, the average office worker these days spends 10 hours sitting at a desk. Many find themselves sitting for as long as 15 or even 20 hours. On the other hand, there are many people with jobs involving handling and lifting heavy objects or extensive traveling. All of these can eventually lead to lower back pain.
If you are one of the people dealing with this health problem, read on to understand the causes and remedies of back pain.
Causes of lower back pain
There are several causes of lower back pain ranging from sports injuries to diseases like cancer. Some of the most common causes besides injuries are-
- Muscle strain or sprain – When muscles or ligaments are damaged due to overstretching or tearing. This can be caused due to poor posture, sports injuries, lifting heavy objects or sudden movement involving the lower back.
- Herniated disc (also called a slipped disc) – The centre of the lumbar disc breaks through the outer layer and causes inflammation and nerve compression which causes nerve root pain. This happens due to the proteins present in the herniated disc.
- Degenerative disc disease – This happens when lumbar discs lose hydration which causes tears in the disc wall. This can lead to herniated discs or spinal stenosis.
- Spinal stenosis – This involves the narrowing of the passage of your spine which puts pressure on your spinal cord.
- Osteoarthritis (commonly called spondylosis) – This is a condition associated with aging and involves pain and inflammation of the lower spine due to wear and tear of spinal discs.
- Compression fracture – When a spinal disc collapses on itself due to loss of bone mass, also called osteoporosis.
Some of the less common causes of lower back pain are-
- Cancer – Cancer in the spine is caused when a tumor spreads from another body part such as breast, kidney or lung to the spine.
- Autoimmune disease – Diseases such as fibromyalgia, lupus and Crohn’s disease can lead to back pain
Symptoms of Lower Back Problems
Lower back pain may manifest in the body in different ways depending upon the health condition you have. Correctly identifying these the type of pain can help your doctor in diagnosing the problem that is causing your back pain. The different types of pain are mentioned below-
- Axial pain – This is the most common type of pain and is usually attributed to muscle strain or sprain. It can be described as either dull or sharp, intermittent or constant pain.
- Radicular pain – This type of pain radiates from your lower back down to your legs and is called sciatica. It is usually caused by conditions such as herniated discs and spondylolisthesis.
- Referred pain – This is a dull ache in the lower back that may extend to the hips and thighs. It is usually associated with degenerative disc disease.
Some of the common characteristics of lower back pain include –
- Pain that intensifies upon bending, sneezing, or coughing
- Pain that is worse after prolonged sitting
- Stiffness after a long period of rest (usually in the morning)
- Pain that is relieved upon movement
Other symptoms of lower back problems, besides pain, include-
- Unexplained weight loss
- Severe pain in the abdomen
- Shooting pain involving tingling and numbness
- Loss of bladder or bowel control
While surgery may be required for severe cases and emergencies, there are several other types of treatments that can help with lower back pain and its underlying causes.
- Medical treatments besides surgery include medicines like muscle relaxants and opioids, back braces, and epidural injections – all to relieve pain.
- Physiotherapists employ spinal manipulation, that is, physical adjustments to the spine, to reduce stiffness and pain. It also helps in improving the mobility of the patient.
- Massage therapy helps in increasing blood flow and relieving muscle spasms.
- There is also various yoga poses such as the Child’s pose and the Cat and Cow pose that are particularly beneficial to the lower back.
- Acupuncture is a treatment based on traditional Chinese medicine. It involves inserting thin needles at specific points of the body and is known to relieve pain.
While we talk mainly about the causes and remedies of lower back pain here, you must know that there are also ways of preventing back problems.
Exercising, taking short walking breaks during office hours, and maintaining the right posture are just some of the ways in which back pain can be prevented.
Ultimately, healthy living is a choice all of us have and a choice we must consciously try to exercise if we want to avoid visits to the doctor.