Low Back Pain
What is Low Back Pain?
The lower back consists of the lower (lumbar) spine, which connects to the upper body. This part of the back gives us strength and mobility. Lower back pain (LBP) can be classified into two types. The first is called mechanical pain. This is the type of pain associated with disc, joint, ligament, and muscle problems or injuries. The second type of pain is non-mechanical or referred pain. This is associated with tumor, infection, or disorders of other internal organs. LBP can also be classified by duration: acute (days to weeks) or chronic (over 3 months). Most of acute LBP is mechanical in origin. 50% of patients with mechanical LBP usually have relief of the symptom in about 2 weeks, and 90% will have relief within 3 months.
What causes Low Back Pain?
There are many causes of back pain. Often times it can be of a musculoskeletal nature and sometimes nerves can be involved. Many nerves exit the back to feed the legs and nerve involvement can cause numbness, tingling, pain, and weakness. The most popular causes of low back pain are strains and sprains. Muscle strains occur when they are not conditioned properly or are overworked,. Sprain occurs when a tight or weak ligament sustains a strong force. Other conditions can factor in to the cause of low back pain such as poor conditioning, improper use, obesity, and smoking. Age can also be a natural cause of low back pain, with a decreased amount of bone, and a decrease in the strength and elasticity of muscles and of ligaments.
Who gets Low Back Pain?
Four out of five adults will at some point have low back pain. It is the second most common cause of people missing work (only after the common cold). The risk of Low Back Pain related to degenerative spine disease increases with aging.
How is Low Back Pain diagnosed?
The diagnosis of low back pain begins with a physical exam, usually of the spine and legs. Studies such as EMGs, X-rays, CT scans, MRIs, and bone scans may be performed to diagnose some of the causes of low back pain.
How is Low Back Pain treated?
Some medications can be prescribed to eliminate the pain and inflammation associated with low back pain. Activity modification is usually the starting point to a healthy recovery. The best treatment is aimed at strengthening the muscles in the back and working to maintain that strength. Rehabilitation programs and surgery may also be needed in some instances of low back pain. Of course, the best treatment is to prevent the low back pain before it starts. This can be done by maintaining a regular exercise program, a healthy weight, proper posture, and by lifting and moving correctly.
More information on Low Back Pain
American Chronic Pain Association
American Association of Orthopaedic Surgeons
Medical Multimedia Group