Low Back Pain FAQs

How common is low back pain?

 

BackPainLow back pain is very common. In the U.S., over 30-million people are dealing with low back pain at any given time. Millions of dollars are spent each year in an attempt to lessen such pain or eradicate it. Over the course of time as many as 80% of those adults in the U.S. will experience low back pain at least once.

 

Who is affected by low back pain?

 

Low back pain can affect anyone at anytime. It is one of the leading causes for people missing work and the top reason cited for job-related disabilities. Those between the ages of 40 years old and 80 are especially susceptible to this type of pain. It is a common complaint of those engaged in physical labor, those who sit at desks for long periods of time, and those who are overweight or obese.

 

What are the common causes low back pain?

 

Many times the exact cause of low back pain is hard to establish as it is often related to more than one issue. Various factors may come into play, including the type of work someone performs, how often one exercises, lifestyle choices, sleeping situations, a person’s posture, health issues, and more. Often low back pain is connected to the strain we put on the muscles that compose the core of our body. If there is a disparity in terms of fitness in an area or unevenness in stress imposed on a region of the body, then the surrounding tissues may be affected. This is when one feels pain due to strain that has been placed on ligaments, muscles, tendons, joints, or discs.

 

Are there situations that make low back pain worse?

 

There are many situations that will exacerbate low back pain. Often individuals are not aware of the various factors that are causing their discomfort to become magnified. Some common situations that will make low back pain worse include poor posture, improper technique when lifting objects, sitting for too long, and sleeping on a mattress that is not supportive. High impact sports, work, or activities, repetitive movements that put back muscles in jeopardy, and extreme physical activity are also associated with back problems. It’s been found that diet, stress, age, and genetics influence scenarios involving back pain.

 

Plus, physiological problems may be involved and could be the primary reason for such pain. These include disc degeneration or injury, the spinal canal becoming narrower, and neural tissue reduction. Other conditions such as fractures, arthritis, and joint irritation can influence low back pain. Finally, problems with various organs can be the cause of such pain. If you are having low back pain and cannot pinpoint the problem or it persists, then be sure to see your physician.

 

In what ways can lower back pain affect me?

 

If low back pain persists, it can affect your ability to enjoy just about any and every facet of life. Low back pain can disrupt sleep, and it can begin to cause psychological stress and emotional upheaval, as you become frustrated with the pain and the manner in which it hampers your activities. It can affect your work, family, social, and sex life. Low back pain will, over time, take a mental and physical toll. Often people will eventually avoid activities and situations that are an important part of their lives, and they can find themselves in a state of depression. A medical professional should address back pain that does not resolve on its own in two to four weeks. They will be able to determine the cause of the pain and recommend treatment with the intention of getting you back to a state where you can enjoy your normal activities.

 

What is sciatica?

 

Sciatica is a condition that is often associated with low back pain. The sciatic nerve is the longest and widest single nerve in the body. It is located in the lower back, runs into the buttock and down through the lower limbs. When it is irritated by a back problem, such as stress on or injury to a disc, the pain can be extremely excruciating as it travels along the entire path of the nerve.

 

The pain from sciatica is often felt in the lower back, into the knee and even further down the leg to the foot and toe. The pain may be stinging or it may pulse. It will be intermittent at some times and other times constant. When it starts it may be hardly noticeable. Common symptoms include a mild tingling, dull ache or numbness in affected areas. Muscle weakness in the leg or foot is not uncommon. Sufferers often end up favoring one side of their body over the other, which can create even more imbalance and pain in other regions. Burning sensations on one side of the body can occur and the feeling of pins and needles in the toes and foot is often felt.

 

The pain from sciatica can be cutting, making it difficult for people to move, walk or sit. Finding a comfortable position can be close to impossible until real relief is attained. Sciatica itself cannot be treated. It is the low back problem that is causing this particular pain that must be addressed for relief to occur.

 

How can low back pain be prevented?

 

If you are experiencing low back pain, it is important to review and evaluate all aspects of your life, including work conditions, home situations, and leisure activities, Anything from the level of stress you are under to diet to physical conditioning and weight control to sleeping habits to smoking, drinking, and drug use may influence your vulnerability to low back pain. Often people first experience back pain before addressing the situations that lead to it. Overall, a healthy lifestyle that includes exercise, sound eating habits, and proper body posture and support can help you avoid chronic back pain.

 

What sorts of treatment options are there for low back pain?

 

There is a wide range of treatments that are available to those experiencing low back pain. The initial step to take when you have back pain is to see your doctor. An evaluation of your situation, which may include a physical exam, X-rays, MRI, and various lab tests, may be necessary. Treatments vary depending on the cause of your pain and the severity. Options include medications, acupuncture, physical therapy, injection therapy, and possibly surgery. All options can be helpful and typically the “less invasive” ones will be tried first to see if there is any benefit. Often, the least invasive type of therapy is first recommended.

 

What is the overall goal when treating low back pain and how is it achieved?

 

When you have low back pain those working with you will be helping to alleviate the pain while encouraging the healing process. In healing conditions that cause lower back pain, there is an attempt to increase blood flow, reduce any inflammation, and eventually build the muscle groups that support your lower back. The goal is to get you back to the point where you can enjoy normal activities once again.

 

Can conditions that cause low back pain be cured?

 

This depends on the situation that is causing the pain. Many times with a commitment by the patient to change various factors in their life and proper treatment by medical professionals low back pain can be eliminated or greatly reduced. Influencing factors include prior health history and physical condition of the patient, the seriousness of the injury or illness causing the pain, and the patient’s desire to do what they must do to solve the problem.