The lower back is a vital and well-engineered part of our body. From supporting the upper body to being the main component of bending and twisting, the range of jobs the lower back is responsible for is astonishing. Plus, it’s incredibly complex and consists of bones, joints, nerves, ligaments and muscles all working together in harmony.
Because the lower back is constantly working, it’s highly susceptible to injury and pain. Yet, lower back pain often goes ignored. On top of this, it’s easy to cover up the pain with medications and never fix the underlying cause. Whether or not you suffer from lower back pain, knowing common causes and symptoms is essential. Check out these top seven things to know about lower back pain and take charge of your back health today.
1. Types of lower back pain
The most common type of lower back pain is mechanical pain, which refers to pain caused by stress and strain on the lower back muscles. Most patients have mechanical pain, and a telltale sign is that you will feel it only in the lower back and/or buttocks. The pain is also felt differently depending on how you stretch and twist your back.
The less common type of lower back pain is radicular pain related to the spinal nerve. It’s more sharp and burning than mechanical pain and is usually only felt on one side of the body.
It’s also important to recognize the difference between acute and chronic lower back pain. Acute pain will come on suddenly, usually from an injury, and lasts only days or weeks. On the other hand, chronic pain lasts over three months, and the cause of pain is harder to figure out.
2. Causes of pain in lower back
As the lower back is relatively sensitive to unexpected tweaks and changes in exercises or daily habits, lower back pain can come on with minimal awareness of how and why it started. Some of the most common causes of lower back pain include:
- A sudden movement that tweaks the back muscles or ligaments
- Change in exercise that puts increased pressure on the lower back
- Poor posture over an extended amount of time
- General wear and tear damage
- Spinal infections or degenerative diseases
If you start experiencing back pain, it’s important to consider both long-term and short-term changes you’ve made in your life to help your doctor discover the correct cause.
3. Symptoms of low back pain
It’s easy to assume that pain in your lower back is very straightforward – a painful lower back. However, the pain can vary significantly along with how and where it’s felt. Firstly, lower back pain can range from mild and annoying to intense and debilitating. It may also come on very suddenly, or it can start as a minor annoyance and then continue getting worse and worse over time. Other common symptoms include:
- Muscles spasms
- Tight back and hips
- Difficulty going from standing to sitting
- Difficulty walking or standing up straight
- Numbness or tingling of lower legs and feet
4. Diagnosing the cause of lower back pain
Correctly diagnosing the cause of lower back pain is the most crucial aspect in healing and preventing it from coming back. As pain isn’t always felt at its source, a wrong diagnosis is more common than one would hope. A typical diagnostic has a three-step plan.
Information gathering: your doctor or practitioner will ask questions about your current symptoms, including if there’s a specific time of day your pain is felt the most, where does the pain spread, what type of pain do you feel and if any activities aggravate your pain.
Physical exam: your doctor or practitioner will feel for abnormalities in your lower back, test your range of motion, check your reflexes and have you perform different movements to define what causes pain.
Imaging: While not always necessary, your doctor may request an x-ray, CT scan, or MRI to look for spine and soft tissues abnormalities.
5. Common treatment for lower back pain
With the right plan, most lower back pain issues can be treated without surgery or invasive procedures. In fact, with a correct diagnosis, the majority of cases can be solved with at-home treatment and rehabilitation. Some common treatments for lower back pain include:
- Short periods of rest
- Avoidance or modification of activities that aggravate lower back pain
- Heat/ice therapy
- Stretches and exercises
- Pain medication
- Muscle relaxants
- Chiropractor, acupuncture and massage therapy
6. Treat lower back pain with a C.H.E.K practitioner and lower back pain exercises
Lower back pain can be a tricky injury to heal, especially if you only focus on the immediate symptoms and areas of pain. Medicine may cover up the pain, and a visit with a chiropractor may relieve pain in the short term, but without a practitioner who looks from a holistic approach, the pain is likely to come back.
By using a C.H.E.K practitioner, they’ll aim to find the underlying cause of your problem then create a specialised plan to relieve back pain long term.
After a comprehensive assessment, you’ll be given exercises catered specifically to your injury and day-to-day life. They’ll also look at your overall biomechanics to identify if the pain is related to other parts of your body and ensure your ergonomics are healthy.
7. Prevention and lower back stretches are key to eliminating lower back pain
After your lower back pain is resolved, it’s important not to return to bad habits. If you’ve been working with a C.H.E.K practitioner, the next step will be to continue to increase strength and mobility in your lower back muscles. On top of this, other preventative measures include:
- Maintaining a healthy weight
- Regular exercises with a focus on core and back strength
- Maintaining good posture while sitting at a desk, watching tv and lifting heavy objects
- Be aware of your limitations and avoid movements that could aggravate your pain
Remember, even if you don’t suffer from back pain, it’s essential to practice these preventative measures to ensure you’ll continue to live pain-free.
Ready to learn even more about lower back pain?
A simple consultation at Back Pain Auckland will answer your questions and set you on the path to eliminating back pain. With 18 years of back pain rehabilitation and prevention experience and many success stories, you’ll be in good hands to say goodbye to your back pain forever!