Pain 101: Low Back Pain
What is Low Back Pain?
Back pain comes in many different forms and can affect people in a variety of ways. Pain in the low back, buttocks, and radiating pain down the leg are all forms of low back pain. Low back pain can limit one’s life in many ways and is an extremely common complaint among adults, regardless of their age. It is one of the most common reasons why people go to the doctor, miss work, or stop participating in activities they enjoy.
Types of Low Back Pain
Joint irritation is often caused by poor posture, remaining in awkward positions for a prolonged time, or by sudden movements including whiplash. The facet joints connecting the spinal bones may swell and become painful and limit movement.
Disc injuries (bulge, herniation, degeneration) are a common cause for back pain. the disc acts to absorb shock during the body’s daily activities and keeps the vertebrae (bones in the spine) separated. When damaged, the disc can create pressure on the nerve or spinal cord and cause pain in the low back and legs.
Pinched nerves/sciatica occur when there is excessive pressure on the nerve leading to weakness, numbness or pain radiating down the leg.
Arthritis is the wearing out or degeneration of the joints leading to pain in the joints of the low back. This can be caused by trauma/injury, repetitive movements over time, or normal conditions of aging.
Muscle Spasms & Strains
Muscle spasms and strains are irritation and injury to the back muscles causing them to involuntarily contract or become excessively tense and cause significant pain. This may occur from an injury, accident, or prolonged poor posture and repetitive movements.
Posture Imbalances can often lead to back pain. This source of back pain is on the rise with the use of computers, increased sitting, and long commutes to work. Imbalances can develop including tightness in certain muscles along with weakness in the core which can eventually lead to back pain.
STEPS TO LOW BACK PAIN RELIEF
It is important when you are experiencing low back pain to limit your activity and rest so that your back can heal.
Apply cold packs to your back to help decrease your pain and inflammation in the joints and muscles. To prevent damage to skin and surrounding tissue, cold packs should only be applied in 15 minute intervals.
If you don’t have increased pain with movement, stretching the leg, hip, and back muscles can be the first step in helping to loosen up your back and decrease the pain.
Physical therapy consists of hands-on treatment to loosen muscles and joints, education on proper posture and movement to decrease pain, instruction on stretching and strengthening exercises to restore mobility and strength, and modalities such as electrical stimulation, cold/heat and ultrasound.
LOW BACK PAIN EXERCISES
Following are a few exercises you can perform that may help alleviate pain. Please go to LIFE+ for more videos that may help you. Please consult your physician before trying these, and stop if you experience any pain or discomfort.