Have you ever felt that pulling and irritating pain that is lower back pain? Back pain is difficult at the best of times but the lower back is one of the common areas of pain felt amongst patients. Around 80% of adults experience lower back pain at some point in their lives. Therefore, understanding how it is caused and what to do when you experience this pain is crucial.
How does lower back pain feel?
If you’ve never experienced lower back pain (lucky you!), there’s a chance you’re not sure how it will affect your body. Truth is, lower back pain can vary between patients, so it can often be an individual experience.
Many people experience pain as a dull ache. However, some people can experience pain in this region as a sharp, shooting pain. Lower back pain can begin quite abruptly when it is due to an injury or the result of an accident. Otherwise, it is often a gradual pain that develops over time and with age.
How long does lower back pain last?
This can depend on the cause of the back pain. Many patients find that the pain in the lower back is resolved after a few days to a few weeks. Mild cases usually resolve on their own with a bit of self-care.
If you have lower back pain lasting between four to 12 weeks, this is considered “subacute low back pain.
Pain that lasts over 12 weeks would be defined as “chronic back pain”. Some patients with short-term back pain can develop chronic back pain if the pain isn’t treated appropriately.
What causes lower back pain?
There are a number of different reasons why you may be experiencing back pain. These include:
- Strains or sprains – This is the most common cause for acute lower back pain. This can occur from tearing or overstretching your ligaments. Doing activities such as lifting items that are too heavy or improperly lifting heavy items is a common cause.
- Herniated or ruptured discs – When intervertebral discs are compressed and bulge outward, this can cause extensive back pain in the lower part of your back.
- Traumatic injury – Any kind of severe injury such as being in a car accident, falling and injuring your ligaments or muscles and even playing sports can cause back pain. This kind of injury can also lead to the compression or irritation of spinal nerves causing back pain and/or sciatica.
- Sciatica – The sciatic nerve is a large nerve that travels through the buttocks and down the back of the leg. When this nerve becomes compressed, this can lead to sciatica. In a lot of cases, there is also a feeling of numbness and weakness in the leg, alongside lower back pain.
There are also a number of conditions that can lead to lower back pain such as fibromyalgia, osteoporosis, diseases of the joints such as arthritis and endometriosis.
What can you do to help lower back pain?
While you may think that resting in bed is the key to helping ease your pain, sometimes this isn’t the best choice. Resuming your normal activities as much as possible is usually the best course of action. However, you want to avoid any strenuous movements such as physical sports or heavy lifting to avoid injuring yourself even more. Once you’re feeling better, you can start to incorporate more physically demanding activities into your life again.
In order to avoid back pain in the future, think of ways you can help strengthen your back muscles. If you work at a desk during the week, make sure you do stretches every 20 minutes to avoid bad posture and slouching at the desk. This can all lead to lower back pain so it’s best to avoid the trigger in the first place.
Massage and myotherapy can help relieve tension in the muscles and ease the pain in your back. A myotherapist can also assess the cause of the back pain and provide you with a comprehensive treatment plan to avoid the pain in the future.
Lastly, if you are in a lot of pain, over-the-counter pain medications may be of help.
If your back pain is severe or worsens, you lose control of your bladder and or you have trouble standing and you experience numbness or weakness in your legs, you should see a doctor as soon as possible. If ever you are unsure of pains in your back, it’s always best to seek professional medical advice.