Lower Back Pain
Lower back pain is a common ailment that affects many people worldwide. Your lumbar vertebra is the spinal column that is at the lower portion of your spine. For the most part, pain in your lower back is nothing to worry about and will typically resolve on its own within a few weeks to months. Unfortunately, once you have lower back pain, you are more likely to get it again.
There are many causes for back pain, and typically it is difficult to determine what the cause actually is. The most common reasons are from sprains and strains to the muscles and ligaments that move the spine. Occasionally it is caused by more serious things, such as a prolapsed disc or compressed vertebrae.
Sciatica is a type of back pain that affects the sciatic nerve that runs from your lower back, hips to your feet. It typically only affects one side at a time but can happen in both. Symptoms include sharp, stabbing, shooting or burning pain that can occur anywhere from your buttocks to toes. Pins and needles sensations can also occur. Sciatic nerve pain can happen in conjunction with pain in your back but can occur with symptoms only in your legs.
Prevention is key in lessening your risk of lower back pain and having it return. Stay active by doing regular exercise for at least 150 minutes per week to keep your back strong. This will also keep your weight low, or help you lose weight, decreasing the strain on your back. Avoid prolonged sitting by taking breaks when driving or at work and getting up and moving around. When you do need to be sitting, ensure that your posture is correct and that you are not slumped or slouched over. When lifting heavy objects, bend with your knees and hips rather than your back, reducing strain.
Short term back pain relief:
Hot and cold compresses may improve your pain. If the pain has a rapid onset, ice is typically better, and later on, heat is better. Experiment on your own to determine which one works better for you. Ensure that you always have a barrier between your skin and the hot or cold pack. Only leave on for 15-minute increments at a time.
Anti-inflammatories are typically the best medication for minor back pain. Medications such as ibuprofen and Naprosyn are ideal and can be taken in conjunction with other pain medications such as acetaminophen. Be sure to check with your health care provider to ensure that you are able to take these medications safely.
Try to stay active by doing your normal daily activities. Resting for long periods can actually make your pain worse. Your muscles tighten as your rest and as you start to move they loosen and improve your discomfort.
There are specific stretches for the type of back pain that you are experiencing. A physiotherapist is the best person to ask in regards to what positions and stretches you should be doing to help improve your pain and prevent it from returning in the future. Other options include doing gentle exercises like swimming or yoga. There are also many YouTube tutorials available to watch and learn from.
Long-term back pain relief:
If your back pain is persistent, you should be going to see your physician. They can do a physical exam, imaging tests and refer you to specialists as needed. You may need physiotherapy, massage therapy, a chiropractor, or even neurosurgery. In some severe and rare cases, surgery may be required to improve your back pain.
Sciatica treatment can involve specific medications for nerves like gabapentin or pregabalin.
When to Seek help
If your pain is persisting and/or worsening, it is a good idea to see a medical professional. Get help immediately if you experience any numbness or tingling within your groin region, loss of bowel or bladder control, fever or unexplained weight loss. Numbness or weakness in your legs that is severe and/or worsening. If the back or neck pain began after a serious injury (like a car accident) you should be seen by a medical practitioner.