Lower Back Pain
If you suffer from lower back pain, you are not alone. Approximately 80 percent of adults experience low back pain at some point in their lifetime. Men and women are affected equally, but the degree of pain differs individually. In most cases, the pain makes the condition seem worse than it is, however, there are times when intervention is needed. Understanding a bit more about lower back pain will help you determine if you can manage the discomfort at home or if you should see a back pain specialist.
Causes & symptoms of lower back pain
In the majority of cases, low back pain is associated with spondylosis, a term that refers to the general degeneration of the spine. This degeneration is typically due to normal wear and tear that occurs in the joints, discs, and bones of the spine as people age. Some of these “mechanical” causes of low back pain include:
- Sprains and strains
- Intervertebral disc degeneration
- Herniated or ruptured discs
- Facet joint arthritis or arthropathy
- Traumatic injury
- Spinal stenosis
- Skeletal irregularities
- Spinal deformity
In other cases, there is a more serious, underlying cause. These include:
- Abdominal aortic aneurysm
- Kidney stones
- Inflammatory disease of the joints
In regards to back pain symptoms, common symptoms include back stiffness, muscle spasms, and tenderness over the back muscles. Symptoms that indicate a more serious condition include shooting pain down the leg, numbness in the leg or groin, difficulty urinating, fainting, high fever, and abdominal or chest pain. If you suffer from any of the latter, more severe symptoms listed, see your doctor immediately.
treatments for lower back pain
Treatment will depend on what kind of pain you are experiencing. Diagnosing tools like X-rays, MRIs, CT scans and blood tests will help your doctor determine if your condition is acute or chronic.
Acute back pain typically gets better without any treatment at all. However, you may want to take NSAIDs such as aspirin or ibuprofen to ease the pain. In most cases, your pain will last no longer than 6 weeks.
If your pain is chronic, there are several types of treatments available. Here are some options your doctor may suggest:
- Hot and/or cold packs
- Physical therapy
- Medications (i.e. stronger NSAIDs, topical creams and ointments, and muscle relaxants)
- Behavior changes (i.e. new movements for less back stress, change of sleeping position, etc).
- Epidural steroid injections (ESIs)
- Alternative medical treatments (i.e. chiropractic manipulations, massages, acupuncture, etc.)
For most people with chronic back pain, surgery is not needed. However, if none of the above mentioned treatments work, you may need to consider surgery. Cases that may require surgery include:
- Herniated disc
- Spinal stenosis
- Severe facet disease and arthropathy
- Vertebral fractures
- Degenerative disc disease
Your doctor will be able to educate you on the types of surgery available for your lower back pain. Patients considering surgical approaches should be fully informed of all related risks.
can lower back pain be prevented?
Anyone can become affected by lower back pain. While there are no guarantees that you can fully prevent it, there are ways you can keep your back strong and healthy. Some recommendations include:
- Stretching before activity
- Avoid slouching when sitting or standing
- Low-impact exercises after prolonged inactivity
- Adjust work surfaces to a comfortable height and sit in a chair with good lumbar support
- Wear comfortable, low-heeled shoes
- Sleep on your side with knees drawn up in a fetal position
- Avoid lifting objects that are too heavy. When lifting, use the knees, keeping the head down and in line with a straight back. Always keep objects close to the body and avoid twisting when lifting.
- Quit smoking
- Maintain proper nutrition and diet to keep off excess weight
If you are in the Houston area and suffer from lower back pain, call our office to make an appointment with Dr. Fayaz today.