Backpain Overview


Lower back pain is the number two cause of absence from work worldwide – just behind common cold. Nine out of ten Americans experience lower back pain at least once in their life. Five of them experience it more than once. Lower back pain is characterized by increasing pain with prolonged posture of sitting or standing.

What are the causes of lower back pain?

Nerve root pain syndrome:

When the nerve is touched by something, it causes pain. This condition is called as nerve impingement. Nerve impingements can happen mainly due to 3 reasons:

Herniated disk: A disk between the vertebrae shifts out of its position and touches a nerve root.

* Spinal stenosis: With age, the disks between the vertebrae come closer, resulting in narrow spaces. The risk of nerve impingement goes up and even a minor trigger is enough to cause lower back pain.

* Spinal degeneration: Degeneration and wear and tear of the disks and joints cause the gaps to narrow, which leads to nerve impingements.

Musculoskeletal pain syndrome:

This kind of lower back pain is due to pain in the muscles and connective tissue. There are two types of syndromes:

* Myofascial pain: Pain is localized to some areas. There is stiffness in the back that limits movement.

* Fibromyalgia: This is a disorder associated with abnormal levels of neurotransmitters.

Other causes:
Infection of the spine, spinal tumors, and pain in organs in the abdomen that surfaces as lower back pain.

How can lower back pain be treated?

Lower back pain can be significantly reduced by exercise and proper posture. Certain exercises like some yoga postures are meant specifically to strengthen muscles in the area and bring the vertebrae back into alignment.

While sleeping, a pillow can be placed under the knees to take the strain off the back. If sleeping sideways, the pillow can be kept between the knees. Adequate rest needs to be given to the hips and back at regular intervals during the day too.

Traction can be taken at a hospital for quick relief. Other methods like acupuncture and TENS (transcutaneous electric nerve stimulation) are available but not proven beneficial.

Medications for lower back pain include:

* Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs like aspirin and ibuprofen
* Nerve or pain blocks
* Pain relievers like acetaminophen
* Muscle relaxants
* Opioid analgesics
* Steroid injections

Surgery may be required in certain rare cases.

What can be done to prevent lower back pain?

The wrong kind of exercise may trigger lower back pains. Guidance should be taken from experts, preferably orthopedics. The correct posture while sitting, standing and sleeping should be learnt. Lifting or moving of heavy objects needs to be avoided or done using protective belts.