Low Back Pain

Only headaches bring more people to the doctor than backaches—almost everyone has backache at some point during their lives. According to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, low back pain is the number one cause of job-related disability and the most prevalent reason for missed work days. Low back pain can be severe, disabling, and persistent—disrupting your mobility and interfering with your daily activities.

Your spinal column has many complex components and is the central hub of all the nerves of your body. Considering the complexity of the bones, muscles, connective tissues, and blood vessels in your back, it’s no wonder that when one is injured you suffer. Acute low back pain resolves within a few weeks. Chronic low back is more insidious; its cause can be difficult to pinpoint and it typically persists for more than three months.

Lower Back Pain Symptoms

Lower back pain can be complicated because it’s known to radiate into the buttocks, hips, or legs. In fact, the symptoms of low back pain can mimic other health issues, which is why you should consult your doctor for a diagnosis.

Common complaints of low back pain include:

  • Aching
  • Burning
  • Pinching sensation
  • Pins-and-Needles discomfort
  • Stabbing
  • Sharp or well-defined pain
  • Dull or vague pain

Lower Back Pain Causes

Pinpointing the exact cause of lower back pain might pose a clinical challenge for your doctor. In most instances, your lower back pain is actually just a byproduct of an underlying condition. Health conditions that can produce lower back pain include:

  • Degenerative disc disease
  • Infections
  • Arthritis
  • Spinal stenosis
  • Tumors
  • Osteoporosis
  • Spinal deformities
  • Muscle strain or overuse
  • Injuries like fractures or soft tissue tears
  • Obesity
  • Low muscle tone
  • Herniated (slipped) disc
  • Spondylitis

Diagnosing Low Back Pain

To diagnose your low back pain, your care team will use a number of assessment tools, which might include:

  • Symptom and Medical History Inventory
  • Physical Exam
  • Neurological Exam
  • X-rays
  • MRI Scans
  • CT Scans
  • Radionuclide bone scan to measure blood flow to the bone and cell activity inside the bone
  • Electromyogram (EMG) to measure nerve and muscle function

Treating Low Back Pain

Treatments may include:

  • Smoking cessation program
  • Weight loss program
  • Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)
  • Modifications to exercise methods and levels
  • Physical or occupational therapy
  • Osteopathic manipulation
  • Surgery
  • Orthotic aids (like back braces)

Preventing Low Back Pain

Did you know you can make simple changes in your lifestyle to lower your chances of suffering low back pain? Here are a few tips for keeping your back as healthy and pain-free as possible:

  • Incorporate a regular exercise routine in your life that includes stretching
  • Use proper lifting techniques.
  • Practice good posture
  • Stay at a healthy weight
  • Don’t smoke
  • Use relaxation techniques to reduce stress

When should I call my doctor?
Get in touch with your doctor if your back pain:
Prevents you from performing your normal daily activities
Worsens or radiates to your hips, thighs, or legs
Isn’t responding to pain medications