Back Pain, Lower

General Illness Information

Common Name: BACK PAIN, LOWER

Medical Term: None Specified

Description:

Pain in the lower back usually caused by muscle strain. It is often accompanied by sciatica (pain that radiates from the back to the buttock and down into the legs). Onset of pain may be immediate or occur some hours after exertion or an injury. The symptoms get into a cycle, starting with a muscle spasm, the spasm then causes pain and the pain results in additional muscle spasm.

Causes:

Lower back pain may be caused by any of the following:

  • Exertion or lifting;
  • Severe blow or fall;
  • Back disorders;
  • Infections;
  • Ruptured lumbar disk;
  • Nerve dysfunction;
  • Osteoporosis;
  • Tumors;
  • Spondylosis (hardening and stiffening of the spinal column);
  • Congenital problem;
  • Childbirth.

Often there is no obvious cause.

Prevention:

Exercises to strengthen lower back muscles. Learn how to lift heavy objects. Sit properly. Back support in bed. Lose weight, if obese. Choose proper footwear. Wear special back support devices.

Signs & Symptoms

  • Pain. It may be continuous, or only occur when you are in a certain position. Coughing or sneezing, bending or twisting may aggravate the pain.
  • Stiffness.
  • Risk Factors
  • Biomechanical risk factors.
  • Sedentary occupations.
  • Gardening and other yard work.
  • Sports and exercise participation, especially if infrequent.
  • Obesity.

Diagnosis & Treatment

General Measures:

  • Diagnostic test may include laboratory blood studies to determine if there is an underlying disorder, X-rays of the spine, CT or a MRI scan.
  • Bed rest for first 24 hours. Additional bed rest will be determined by severity of the problem. Recent medical studies indicate that staying more active is better for back disorders than prolonged bed rest.
  • Use a firm mattress (place a bed board under the mattress if needed).
  • Ice pack or cold massage or heat applied to affected area with heating pad or hot water bottle.
  • Physical therapy.
  • Massage may help. Be sure person is well trained or massage could cause more harm than help.
  • Wear a special back support device.
  • Other options are available depending on degree of injury, such as surgery (if disk damaged), electrical nerve stimulation, acupuncture, special shoes, etc.
  • Stress reduction techniques, if needed.

Medications:

  • Mild pain medications such as aspirin or acetaminophen.
  • Stronger pain medicine or a muscle relaxant may be prescribed.
  • Recently, there have been very positive studies on the role of Glucosamine in modifying the disease process of osteoarthritis. As a result, many physicians are advocating the long-term use of Glucosamine in osteorthritis.

Activity:

  • Try to continue with daily work or school schedules to the extent possible. Use care in resuming normal activities.
  • Avoid strenuous activity for 6 weeks.
  • After healing, an exercise program to strengthen abdominal and back muscles will help prevent re-injury.

Diet:

No special diet. A weight reduction diet is recommended if obesity is a problem.

Possible Complications :

Chronic low back pain.

Prognosis

Gradual recovery, but backaches tend to recur.

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