A bad back can happen to anyone at any time, and be from doing simple things, such as coughing or sneezing, or serious medical conditions. Back pain is one of the most common reasons people go to the doctor. Home treatment and proper body mechanics often will heal your back. Back pain often happens because something is off in the way your Herniated discs can cause pain in your lower back or hip because the.
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Low back pain is rarely related to serious underlying conditions, but when these conditions do occur, they require immediate medical attention.
Serious underlying conditions include:. The first attack of low back pain typically occurs between the ages of 30 and 50, and back pain becomes more common with advancing age.
As people grow older, loss of bone strength from osteoporosis can lead to fractures, and at the same time, muscle elasticity and tone decrease. The intervertebral discs begin to lose fluid and flexibility with age, which decreases their ability to cushion the vertebrae. The risk of spinal stenosis also increases with age. Back pain is more common among people who are not physically fit.
Weak back and abdominal muscles may not properly support the spine. Studies show that low-impact aerobic exercise is beneficial for the maintaining the integrity of intervertebral discs. Back symptoms almost always resolve postpartum. Being overweight, obese, or quickly gaining significant amounts of weight can put stress on the back and lead to low back pain. Some causes of back pain, such as ankylosing spondylitis, a form of arthritis that involves fusion of the spinal joints leading to some immobility of the spine, have a genetic component.
Having a job that requires heavy lifting, pushing, or pulling, particularly when it involves twisting or vibrating the spine, can lead to injury and back pain. An inactive job or a desk job may also lead to or contribute to pain, especially if you have poor posture or sit all day in a chair with inadequate back support.
Pre-existing mental health issues such as anxiety and depression can influence how closely one focuses on their pain as well as their perception of its severity.
Pain that becomes chronic also can contribute to the development of such psychological factors. Stress can affect the body in numerous ways, including causing muscle tension.
Backpack overload in children: Low back pain unrelated to injury or other known cause is unusual in pre-teen children. However, a backpack overloaded with schoolbooks and supplies can strain the back and cause muscle fatigue. A complete medical history and physical exam can usually identify any serious conditions that may be causing the pain. During the exam, a health care provider will ask about 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.
Along with a thorough back examination, neurologic tests are conducted to determine the cause of pain and appropriate treatment. The cause of chronic lower back pain is often difficult to determine even after a thorough examination.
Imaging tests are not warranted in most cases. Under certain circumstances, however, imaging may be ordered to rule out specific causes of pain, including tumors and spinal stenosis. Imaging and other types of tests include:.
X-rays show the bony structures and any vertebral misalignment or fractures. Soft tissues such as muscles, ligaments, or bulging discs are not visible on conventional x-rays. Using a computer, the CT scan creates a three-dimensional image from a series of two dimensional pictures. In this procedure, a contrast dye is injected into the spinal canal, allowing spinal cord and nerve compression caused by herniated discs or fractures to be seen on an x-ray or CT scans.
This procedure involves the injection of a contrast dye into a spinal disc thought to be causing low back pain. The dye helps to show the damaged areas on CT scans taken following the injection. Discography may provide useful information in cases where people are considering lumbar surgery or when their pain has not responded to conventional treatments. Unlike x-ray, which shows only bony structures, MRI scans also produce images of soft tissues such as muscles, ligaments, tendons, and blood vessels.
An MRI may be ordered if a problem such as infection, tumor, inflammation, disc herniation or rupture, or pressure on a nerve is suspected. MRI is a noninvasive way to identify a condition requiring prompt surgical treatment. EMG assesses the electrical activity in a muscle and can detect if muscle weakness results from a problem with the nerves that control the muscles.
Very fine needles are inserted in muscles to measure electrical activity transmitted from the brain or spinal cord to a particular area of the body. In NCSs, two sets of electrodes are placed on the skin over the muscles. The first set provides a mild shock to stimulate the nerve that runs to a particular muscle. EP tests also involve two sets of electrodes—one set to stimulate a sensory nerve, and the other placed on the scalp to record the speed of nerve signal transmissions to the brain.
A small amount of radioactive material is injected into the bloodstream and will collect in the bones, particularly in areas with some abnormality. Scanner-generated images can be used to identify specific areas of irregular bone metabolism or abnormal blood flow, as well as to measure levels of joint disease.
Ultrasound imaging , also called ultrasound scanning or sonography, uses high-frequency sound waves to obtain images inside the body. The sound wave echoes are recorded and displayed as a real-time visual image. Ultrasound imaging can show tears in ligaments, muscles, tendons, and other soft tissue masses in the back. Potential tests include complete blood count, erythrocyte sedimentation rate, and C-reactive protein. Blood tests may also detect HLA-B27, a genetic marker in the blood that is more common in people with ankylosing spondylitis or reactive arthritis a form of arthritis that occurs following infection in another part of the body, usually the genitourinary tract.
Treatment for low back pain generally depends on whether the pain is acute or chronic. In general, surgery is recommended only if there is evidence of worsening nerve damage and when diagnostic tests indicate structural changes for which corrective surgical procedures have been developed. Bed rest should be limited. Individuals should begin stretching exercises and resume normal daily activities as soon as possible, while avoiding movements that aggravate pain.
Strong evidence shows that persons who continue their activities without bed rest following onset of low back pain appeared to have better back flexibility than those who rested in bed for a week. Other studies suggest that bed rest alone may make back pain worse and can lead to secondary complications such as depression, decreased muscle tone, and blood clots in the legs.
Strengthening exercises , beyond general daily activities, are not advised for acute low back pain, but may be an effective way to speed recovery from chronic or subacute low back pain.
Maintaining and building muscle strength is particularly important for persons with skeletal irregularities. Health care providers can provide a list of beneficial exercises that will help improve coordination and develop proper posture and muscle balance.
Evidence supports short- and long-term benefits of yoga to ease chronic low back pain. A wide range of medications are used to treat acute and chronic low back pain. Certain drugs, even those available OTC, may be unsafe during pregnancy, may interact with other medications, cause side effects, or lead to serious adverse effects such as liver damage or gastrointestinal ulcers and bleeding.
Consultation with a health care provider is advised before use. The following are the main types of medications used for low back pain:. Manipulation involves a rapid movement over which the individual has no control; mobilization involves slower adjustment movements. The techniques have been shown to provide small to moderate short-term benefits in people with chronic low back pain.
Evidence supporting their use for acute or subacute low back pain is generally of low quality. Neither technique is appropriate when a person has an underlying medical cause for the back pain such as osteoporosis, spinal cord compression, or arthritis.
Some people experience pain relief while in traction, but that relief is usually temporary. Once traction is released the back pain tends to return. There is no evidence that traction provides any longterm benefits for people with low back pain. It involves the insertion of thin needles into precise points throughout the body. Others who may not believe in the concept of Qi theorize that when the needles are inserted and then stimulated by twisting or passing a low-voltage electrical current through them naturally occurring painkilling chemicals such as endorphins, serotonin, and acetylcholine are released.
The therapy involves the attachment of electrodes to the skin and the use of an electromyography machine that allows people to become aware of and selfregulate their breathing, muscle tension, heart rate, and skin temperature. People regulate their response to pain by using relaxation techniques.
Biofeedback is often used in combination with other treatment methods, generally without side effects. Evidence is lacking that biofeedback provides a clear benefit for low back pain. Nerve block approaches range from injections of local anesthetics, botulinum toxin, or steroids into affected soft tissues or joints to more complex nerve root blocks and spinal cord stimulation.
When extreme pain is involved, low doses of drugs may be administered by catheter directly into the spinal cord. The success of a nerve block approach depends on the ability of a practitioner to locate and inject precisely the correct nerve. Chronic use of steroid injections may lead to increased functional impairment. Pain relief associated with the injections, however, tends to be temporary and the injections are not advised for long-term use.
The pain may be mild, or it can be so severe that you are unable to move. Depending on the cause of your back pain, you may also have pain in your leg, hip, or the bottom of your foot. You may also have weakness in your legs and feet. When you first see your provider , you will be asked about your back pain, including how often it happens and how severe it is. Your provider will try to determine the cause of your back pain and whether it is likely to quickly get better with simple measures such as ice, mild painkillers, physical therapy, and proper exercises.
Most of the time, back pain will get better using these methods. During the physical exam, your provider will try to pinpoint the location of the pain and figure out how it affects your movement. Most people with back pain improve or recover within 4 to 6 weeks. Your provider may not order any tests during the first visit unless you have certain symptoms.
While sleeping, try lying in a curled-up, fetal position with a pillow between your legs. If you usually sleep on your back, place a pillow or rolled towel under your knees to relieve pressure.
A common misbelief about back pain is that you need to rest and avoid activity for a long time. In fact, bed rest is not recommended. If you have no sign of a serious cause for your back pain such as loss of bowel or bladder control, weakness, weight loss, or fever , then you should stay as active as possible. You may want to reduce your activity only for the first couple of days.
Then, slowly start your usual activities after that. Do not perform activities that involve heavy lifting or twisting of your back for the first 6 weeks after the pain begins.
After 2 to 3 weeks, you should gradually start exercising again. If your pain lasts longer than 1 month, your primary provider may send you to see either an orthopedist bone specialist or neurologist nerve specialist. If your pain has not improved after use of medicines, physical therapy, and other treatments, your provider may recommend an epidural injection.
Many people feel better within 1 week. After another 4 to 6 weeks, the back pain should be completely gone. There are many things you can do to lower your chances of getting back pain. Exercise is important for preventing back pain.
Through exercise you can:. Concepts and Clinical Practice. Low back strain or sprain. Essentials of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation: Musculoskeletal Disorders, Pain, and Rehabilitation. Lauerman W, Russo M. Thoracolumbar spine disorders in the adult. Malik K, Benzon HT. Practical Management of Pain. Lower back and lower limb pain. Bradley's Neurology in Clinical Practice. Low back pain - acute.
Acute back pain can last for a few days to a few weeks. Causes of sudden low back pain include: Compression fractures to the spine from osteoporosis Cancer involving the spine Fracture of the spinal cord Muscle spasm very tense muscles Ruptured or herniated disk Sciatica Spinal stenosis narrowing of the spinal canal Spine curvatures like scoliosis or kyphosis , which may be inherited and seen in children or teens Strain or tears to the muscles or ligaments supporting the back Low back pain may also be due to: Tests that might be ordered include: To get better quickly, take the right measures when you first feel pain.
Here are some tips for how to handle pain: Stop normal physical activity for the first few days. This will help relieve your symptoms and reduce any swelling in the area of the pain. Apply heat or ice to the painful area. One good method is to use ice for the first 48 to 72 hours, and then use heat. Take over-the-counter pain relievers such as ibuprofen Advil, Motrin or acetaminophen Tylenol. Follow package instructions on how much to take. Do not take more than the recommended amount. Begin with light aerobic activity.
Walking, riding a stationary bicycle, and swimming are great examples. These activities can improve blood flow to your back and promote healing.
They also strengthen muscles in your stomach and back.
6 Tips to Prevent Back Pain
Back pain symptoms can range in intensity from mild to severe. Learn the signs to watch for. Find out what's causing your back pain and what the best treatments are. An example is the sore feeling and stiffness that occurs after a few. Age: The first attack of low back pain typically occurs between the ages of 30 and .