Lower back pain is a common complaint. Whether it’s the sole purpose of a doctor visit or an additional symptom mentioned as a part of an appointment, it is one that radiates as a top priority for seeking immediate diagnosis and treatment to find some relief.
There are several different reasons an individual may be experiencing back pain and a variety of ways to treat the many causes. Here is what you need to know about lumbar and vertebrae pain and how to get the care you need.
Common causes of lower back pain include a torn or strained muscle or ligament, a herniated disc, spinal stenosis or a degenerative disc. The exact cause can typically be determined by the symptoms experienced by the patient.
1. A Torn or Strained Muscle or Ligament
Symptoms of this include:
- Difficulty moving, walking or standing
- Dull or achy pain centrally located around the lower back area, which also includes upper thighs, groin or buttocks but does not extend down the legs
- Muscle spasms specific to these lower mid-regions
If you’re experiencing these symptoms following a strenuous activity or heavy lifting, it is likely that you have strained a back muscle or ligament, causing microscopic tears in the tissue.
This tear or hyperextension of the muscle fibers causes inflammation, back spasms and severe pain which make it difficult to move. If you’re experiencing a torn or strained muscle or ligament, there are several avenues of treatment.
Medically Treating a Torn or Strained Muscle or Ligament
You’ll want to try a combination of:
- Pain medication such as acetaminophen to help subside the pain
- Anti-inflammatory medication including NSAIDs, such as ibuprofen to ease inflammation of the tissue
- Muscle relaxants if muscle spasms are severe
- Massage to help loosen the tightened muscles and increase blood flow to the area
- Chiropractic manipulation to ease the strain
After seeking medical treatment, you can follow up with natural treatments to help strengthen the muscle and prevent further injury.
Natural Methods of Relief
The key to treating lower back pain is to learn some actionable tools to use in day-to-day lives to strengthen the lower back and prevent further pain. Prevention is crucial to avoiding repeat doctor visits.
- Regular exercise – Strengthening your core muscles will give added support to your upper body and help minimize strains. Some back pain sufferers have found aquatic therapy to be particularly effective.
- Good posture – Poor posture places serious strain on the back. It is important to sit, stand and lie down properly. Proper posture allows muscles to work more efficiently.
- Proper sleep positions – No matter which type of sleeper you are, you must support your neck, back and spine.
- Relaxation techniques – Stress causes individuals to hold tension in their muscles. Deep breathing exercises, meditation and muscle relaxation progression can help to soothe aches and pains.
- Endorphin release – Doing activities that release feel-good hormones can act as natural pain killers.
- Heat and cold therapies – Use cold therapy to reduce inflammation and slow muscle spasms. Use heat therapy to increase blood flow and ease pain.
- Stretch – Stretch your hamstrings at least twice per day. This will help to loosen muscles and minimize additional stress placed on the lower back.
2. Sciatica from a Herniated Disc
If you are experiencing severe lower back pain that radiates down the leg, you’re experiencing sciatica. Sciatica can be caused by several complications in the lower back.
If sciatica is an issue, it may be due to a bulging or ruptured disc known as a herniated disc. Aging and injuries can cause wear and tear to the discs that cushion the spine’s vertebrae. When this occurs, it places pressure on the nerve roots of the spinal cord. That pain radiates down the leg causing sciatica.
Treating a Herniated Disc
It is best to begin treatment of a herniated disc with heat and cold therapies, exercises and physical therapy. Pain medication may also be necessary.
In the event these methods are not effective after four weeks of treatment, surgery may be needed. Surgery is necessary for approximately one out of 10 people experiencing nerve damage from a herniated disc.
3. Sciatica from Lumbar Spinal Stenosis
If you’re experiencing a more intense sensation of pain radiating down the leg which includes numbness, tingling or loss of use, the issue may be lumbar spinal stenosis. This is when the spinal nerve roots are being compressed.
Pain in an individual experiencing spinal stenosis is typically experienced during activities such as walking, but feel normal during periods of rest or inactivity. Diagnostic imaging by MRI scan or a CT scan with myelogram can be used to determine the severity of the nerve compression.
Treating Spinal Stenosis
According to Spine Health, the most common treatments include:
- Activity modification
- Epidural injections
4. Sciatica from a Degenerative Disc
A degenerative disc is one of the most common causes of lower back pain. It is completely normal to occur over time as the spinal discs age. As the discs break down, the vertebrae begin grinding against each other and put pressure on the spinal nerves.
Treating a Degenerative Disc
Like many of the other causes of lower back pain, treatment of a degenerative disc is much the same. Heat and cold therapies and pain medication are first line treatments to ease pain. In some cases, surgery may be recommended where the disc is removed and vertebrae are permanently fused together.
Treatments for lower back pain are typically nonsurgical and easy to administer. However, to prevent further injury, you must take control of your health by following guidelines to support better back health. By incorporating exercise, good posture and relaxation techniques into your daily lifestyle, you can prevent lower back pain.