Whether you sit in the wrong position for too long or you lift heavy items for your job, chances are, you have had lower back pain at some point in your life. It is a universal experience and a common cause for visits to the doctor. If you frequently experience lower back pain or you had it once and don’t want it to happen again, you probably have a lot of questions. So, how can you relieve or prevent lower back pain?
Lower back pain is rarely serious. You can take simple measures to prevent or relieve them. The most important way to prevent lower back pain is to eat healthfully, get regular exercise, maintain good posture, and avoid prolonged sitting. If prevention fails, you can always use simple home treatment and proper body mechanics. In most cases, lower back pain is not caused by anything serious and will get better over time. Surgery is rarely needed to treat it. However, if your pain is severe and does not improve with rest, you do have to see your doctor as soon as you can.
Want to learn more about lower back pain and how you can prevent or relieve it? Below, we are going to tell you everything you need to know and give you some useful tips to help with lower back pain. Keep reading!
What is lower back pain?
Lower back pain also called lumbago, is a very common condition. It is one of the leading causes of disability in the world. There are mainly two types of lower back pain: acute and chronic. Acute lower back pain usually comes on suddenly and go no more than six weeks. While chronic lower back pain can last more than three months, it is less common.
It is not always possible to identify the causes of lower back pain. However, it is rarely anything serious. For some people, their lower back pain is triggered by vigorous activity, such as weight lifting, while other people simply bend down to pick up a pen and their lower back gives out.
Most lower back pain is known as “non-specific,” meaning there is no obvious cause or “mechanical,” meaning the pan originates from the bones, joints, or soft tissues around and in the spine. Non-specific and mechanical back pain tends to get better or worse depending on your position (for instance, it may feel less painful when you are lying down or sitting down). These types of back pain are sometimes the result of lifting something awkwardly or poor posture, however, they often happen for no apparent reason.
In some cases, lower back pain may also be caused by medical conditions, such as:
- Arthritis – osteoarthritis can significantly affect your lower back. In some cases, arthritis that is located in the spine can result in a narrowing of the space around the spinal cord. This condition is known as spinal stenosis.
- Osteoporosis – if your bones become porous and brittle, your spine’s vertebrae can develop compression fractures.
- Muscle or ligament strain – sudden and awkward movement or repeated heavy lifting can possibly strain your back muscles and spinal ligaments. Constant strain on your back can eventually lead to painful spasm, especially if you are in poor physical condition.
- Skeletal irregularities – Scoliosis (a condition where your spine curves to the side) can eventually lead to lower back pain.
- Sciatica – Sciatica is irritation of the nerve that runs along your lower back all through to the feet. This condition can cause numbness, pain, weakness, and tingling in your lower back, legs, feet, and buttocks.
In very rare conditions, back pain can be a sign of a serious problem that needs immediate medical treatment, such as an infection, a damaged or worn bone around or in the spine, a certain type of cancer (such as multiple myeloma), and cauda equina syndrome (a condition in which the nerves in the lower back become severely compressed).
What are the symptoms of lower back pain?
The following are the main signs and symptoms of back pain:
- Pain radiating through your leg
- Shooting or stabbing pain
- Pain that worsens when lifting, standing, walking, or bending
- Muscle ache
Most of these symptoms gradually subside with home treatment within a few weeks. However, if your lower back pain does not seem to get better, then you may need to see your doctor. In some rare cases, back pain can be a sign of a serious medical problem. If this is the case, your back pain may:
- Be accompanied by fever
- Cause new bladder or bowel problems.
You should also seek professional help if your back pain:
- Occurs following a fall or injury
- Is severe and does not improve with rest
- Radiated down one or both of your legs, particularly if the pain extends below the knee
- Is accompanied by an unexplained weight loss
- Cause numbness, weakness, or tingling in your legs.
If you start having back pain for the first time after the age of 50 or you have a history of osteoporosis, cancer, steroid use, excessive drug, or alcohol use, you need to see your doctor immediately.
How to prevent and reduce lower back pain?
To control the progression of lower back pain that has already occurred, to prevent indirect trauma, and to protect your lower back, do the following tips:
- Hot and cold
When you experience back pain, you can use heat and ice to help you. However, bear in mind that order is important. If you are faced with a new injury, you ice it for the first 24 to 48 hours, then, after 1 to 2 days, you can use heat. It may be more inviting to apply heat right away after an injury, but it can cause your body to release much more inflammatory compounds. It is also important to remember to refrain from applying the ice and heat source directly to your skin.
- Strengthen your core muscles every day and keep exercising
Often times, staying active is the best medicine for lower back pain. To support your spine, you need strong and supportive muscles. In order to achieve this, you can try core building exercises, such as:
- Water therapy – this strengthens and condition an injured muscles. It is optimal for people who experience chronic back pain and find it too painful to exercise without water.
- Low-impact cardiovascular exercise – this type of exercise can help increase blood flow to your spine and stretch your muscles.
If you find it impossible or difficult to exercise, make small goals to slowly get yourself moving. Simple activities like walking or going up and down the stairs can be very helpful, as it gets you out of a sitting posture. However, avoid doing anything that can cause pain, such as gardening and other strenuous activities.
- Evaluate your workspace
If you work at a desk job all day, your workstation could be the cause of your lower back pain. Rethink your space and make it more ergonomic to relieve your back pain and prevent it from getting worse. One of the main things in your workspace that may have a significant effect on your back is the chair. Therefore, invest in an ergonomic office chair that can support the natural curve in your lower spine. Besides the chair, make sure that your frequently used objects are not too far out of your arm’s reach as it can lead to repeated twisting that can potentially strain your lower back. Also, place your computer monitor in the right position. Remember that looking too high or too low can affect your posture and contribute to the development of lower back pain.
It is also important to walk for a few minutes and stretch your lower back muscles. Our tip is to set a timer every 50 minutes to an hour to remind yourself to stretch and move.
- Maintain Good Posture
You may have just realized that your lower back pain after a long day at the gym. However, the strain that caused the pain may have been building for years. Poor posture puts unnecessary strain and stress on your back. Remember that little things add up, so always remember to maintain good posture as much as you can.
- Follow a healthy diet for your bone
A healthy diet can help you prevent lower back pain. Eating a well-balanced diet can help maintain a healthy weight, so you don’t have to worry about any excess weight that puts extra strain on your lower back. Also, a healthy diet that is high in key nutrients can help keep your bones strong. Make sure to have these nutrients in your diet:
- Calcium, which can be found in dairy products, such as milk, yogurt, cheese, and ice cream. However, if you do not or cannot eat dairy you can have cereal, oatmeal, orange juice, and nondairy milk. Some veggies also have calcium, such as bok choy, broccoli, kale, and collard greens.
- Vitamin D can be found in swordfish, salmon, sardines, fortified cereals, eggs, fortified milk, and cod liver oil.
- Phosphorus can be found in dairy foods, such as cheese, milk, ice cream, and yogurt. Other foods that contain phosphorus include baked beans, black beans, kidney beans, bran cereals, sardines, dark colas, and oysters.