Pain in the lower back is very common. Fortunately, 70 percent of people who have low back pain get better within two weeks. And more than 90 percent get better within four to six weeks.
Inflammation (swelling) of the joints, muscles or discs in the back often causes low back pain. Physical activities especially repetitive lifting, bending and twisting can make low back pain worse. Poor posture also can worsen low back pain. Rarely do serious problems, such as infection or other medical conditions, cause low back pain.
Types of Low Back Pain:
Acute Low Back Pain: Low back pain that lasts for six weeks or less is called acute low back pain, lumbar muscle strain or backache. Although quite painful, it usually improves after a few days of simple care.
Acute Sciatica: Acute sciatica is low back pain that lasts for six weeks or less and extends below the waist. It also is called radiating leg pain. Feeling better usually takes longer than with acute low back pain. Nerve irritation in the lower back often causes sciatica pain.
Chronic Low Back Pain & Sciatica: Back pain and sciatica that lasts longer than six weeks with no significant improvement is considered chronic. Specialized treatment may be needed.
Signs to look out for: Immediately visit your doctor if you experience any of the following symptoms:
- Unexplained weight loss.
- Constant night pain.
- Urinary difficulties, such as incontinence and retention.
- Numbness around your anus or genitals.
- Weakness, numbness or unsteadiness in your legs.
The following simple recommendations may help control your pain:
Bed Rest: Prolonged bed rest is not necessary for most back problems. Staying in bed for more than two days may increase the pain and stiffness. Moderate activity that does not significantly worsen the pain is more helpful.
Ice and Heat: Ice or cold packs can reduce the pain and swelling of a muscle strain or spasm (tightening of the muscle). Use ice or cold packs for 20 minutes three or four times a day during the first few days. A hot bath or heating pad after 72 hours of the onset of the injury may further reduce pain. Continue to use ice as long as it helps reduce the pain.
Stress Management: Learning to effectively manage everyday stress can help your recovery.
Posture, sleeping and weight: Good posture keeps the body’s weight aligned and reduces stress on the back muscles. When sitting, use a chair with enough lower back support or place a pillow behind your back. Change positions frequently.
When sleeping, lie on your back with a pillow under your knees or on your side with a pillow between your lower legs.
Being overweight increases stress on the lower back. Weight loss is important to prevent future problems. Also, smoking can cause back pain and hamper relief.
Return to your usual activities: It is important that you return to your daily activities at the earliest. While you can expect some discomfort, getting back to regular activities helps prevent your back from becoming weak and stiff. Avoid lifting heavy objects and repetitive bending and twisting.
Physiotherapy: Physiotherapy can help you to manage pain and improve your strength and flexibility. A physiotherapist can provide a variety of treatments including special exercises, gentle manual techniques, pain-relieving tools. They help you understand your problem and get you back to your normal activities. They can also give advice on how you can prevent symptoms returning in the future, for example by teaching the correct way to lift heavy objects.
To help in your recovery and to prevent further back problems, keep yourself in good physical condition and your back, abdominal muscles and legs strong. Walk daily as soon as you can and gradually add other activities such as yoga and swimming.