Low Back Pain
Lower Back Pain Overview
pain, or lumbago, occurs as an ache or a
pain anywhere below the lower ribs and
above the legs, and is common in both
genders and all age groups, though itís
most common in adults between the ages
of 35 and 55. Over the course of a
lifetime, almost 70 out of every 100
people will experience low back pain,
resulting in lost work days, and
limiting normal activities, exercise and
Lumbago can vary in its intensity, resulting in restricted movement, and may spread into the buttocks and upper thigh regions. Lower back pain may be either chronic or acute, sharp and sudden or dull and continuous, can be localized to the lower back itself, below the waist, or extend down through the buttocks and on down through the backs of the legs and right down to the feet. Though for many folks who experience lumbago it will only last for a period of days, it can recur. If it does, then a change in lifestyle may be necessary to lessen strain on the lower back and lessen the chance of a recurrence. In a small percentage of people who suffer lower back pain, it can be continuous and persistent and lead to a chronic disability.
Definition of lower back pain
The definition of lower back pain,
or lumbago, is any back pain or ache
located between the bottom of the
ribcage and above the legs.
Lower back pain that flares up
suddenly is called acute lower back
pain. If the lower back pain continues
persistently, then itís called chronic
lower back pain.
Usual causes of lower back pain
Lower back pain is often caused by a
physical injury, such as a car accident,
a slip-and-fall, or a sports-related
injury. Lower back pain can also be a
consequence of strained muscles. It can
also result from a more specific cause,
ie a spinal injury such as a herniated
Most Common Lower Back Pain Symptoms
Pain that occurs anywhere from the bottom of your rib cage to the tops of your thighs on your back, which can be local to one region or can be a broader, more widespread pain are the most common symptoms. Sometimes the pain will intensify with certain movements, sometimes it will vary over time, and sometimes it can spread outward from one region to another.
What is Back Pain?
Back pain is a symptom that can arise from many causes. It can range from a dull, annoying ache to absolute agony. Many cases of back pain are caused by stresses on the muscles and ligaments that support the spine. Sedentary jobs and lifestyles may create a vulnerability to this type of stress or damage. Obesity, which increases both the weight on the spine and the pressure on the discs, is another factor. Strenuous sports such as football and gymnastics can also damage the back.
Definition of Low Back Pain
Pain felt in your lower back may come
from the spine, muscles, nerves, or
other structures in that region of your
back. It may also radiate from other
areas like your mid or upper back, a
hernia in the groin, or a problem in the
testicles or ovaries.
You may feel a variety of symptoms if you hurt your back. You may have a tingling or burning sensation, a dull aching, or sharp pain. You also may experience weakness in your legs or feet.
It won't necessarily be one event that actually causes your pain. You may have been doing many things improperly -- like standing, sitting, or lifting -- for a long time. Then suddenly, one simple movement, like reaching for something in the shower or bending from your waist, leads to the feeling of pain.
Low Back Pain Considerations
If you are like most people, you will
have at least one backache in your life.
While such pain or discomfort can happen
anywhere in your back, the most common
area affected is your low back. This is
because the low back supports most of
your body's weight.
Low back pain is the #2 reason that Americans see their doctor -- second only to colds and flus. Many back-related injuries happen at work. But you can change that. There are many things you can do to lower your chances of getting back pain.
Most back problems will get better on their own. The key is to know when you need to seek medical help and when self-care measures alone will allow you to get better.
Low back pain may be acute (short-term), lasting less than one month, or chronic (long-term, continuous, ongoing), lasting longer than three months. While getting acute back pain more than once is common, continuous long-term pain is not.
You are at particular risk for low back pain if you:
Work in construction or another job requiring heavy lifting, lots of bending and twisting, or whole body vibration (like truck driving or using a sandblaster)
Have bad posture
Are over age 30
Smoke, don't exercise, or are overweight
Have arthritis or osteoporosis
Have a low pain threshold
Feel stressed or depressed
Avoid the following exercises if you are suffering from severe low back pain:
Leg lifts when lying on your stomach
Sit-ups with straight legs (rather than bent knees)
Questions your doctor may ask you about your low back pain:
Is your back pain on one side only or both sides?
What does the back pain feel like? Is it dull, sharp, throbbing, or burning?
Is this the first time you have had back pain?
When did the back pain begin? Did it start suddenly?
Did you have a particular injury or accident?
What were you doing just before the back pain began? Were you lifting or bending? Sitting at your computer? Driving a long distance?
If you have had back pain before, is this pain similar or different? In what way is it different?
Do you know the cause of previous episodes of back pain?
How long does each episode of back pain usually last?
Do you feel the pain anywhere other than your back, like your hip, thigh, leg or feet?
Do you have any numbness or tingling? Any weakness or loss of function in your leg or elsewhere?
What makes the back pain worse? Lifting, twisting, standing, or sitting for long periods of time?
What makes you feel better?
Are there any other symptoms present? Weight loss? Fever? Change in urination? Change in bowel habits?
What causes Low Back Pain?
Low back pain may reflect nerve or muscle irritation or bone lesions. Most low back pain follows injury or trauma to the back, but pain may also be caused by degenerative conditions such as arthritis or disc disease, osteoporosis or other bone diseases, viral infections, irritation to joints and discs, or congenital abnormalities in the spine. Obesity, smoking, weight gain during pregnancy, stress, poor physical condition, posture inappropriate for the activity being performed, and poor sleeping position also may contribute to low back pain. Additionally, scar tissue created when the injured back heals itself does not have the strength or flexibility of normal tissue. Buildup of scar tissue from repeated injuries eventually weakens the back and can lead to more serious injury.
Who is most likely to develop low back pain?
Nearly everyone has low back pain sometime. Men and women are equally affected. It occurs most often between ages 30 and 50, due in part to the aging process but also as a result of sedentary life styles with too little (sometimes punctuated by too much) exercise. The risk of experiencing low back pain from disc disease or spinal degeneration increases with age.
How is low back pain diagnosed?
A thorough medical history and physical exam can usually identify any dangerous conditions or family history that may be associated with the back pain. The patient describes the onset, site, and severity of the pain; duration of symptoms and any limitations in movement; and history of previous episodes or any health conditions that might be related to the pain. The physician will examine the back and conduct neurological tests to determine the cause of pain and appropriate treatment. Blood tests may also be ordered. Imaging tests may be necessary to diagnose tumors or other possible sources of the pain.