Low Back Pain

Low Back PainImage of Patient with Low Back Pain

What are the Causes of Low Back Pain?

Low back pain is a very common issue, affecting nearly 80% of the population at some point during their life. The severity may vary from mild soreness to debilitating pain.   Pain in the lower back may lead to symptoms of numbness, tingling, and pain in the legs and buttocks.  There are numerous structures in the lower back which may cause pain but the most common issues stem from lumbar disk and facet joint issues.  True muscle strains in the lower back are less common, though patients may have muscle pain due to muscle spasms. These structures may be aggravated over time through repetitive stress from excessive sitting activity, lifting heavy objects, or lifting with improper technique.  They may also be injured during a traumatic event, such as a fall or a car accident.

Low Back Pain Low Back Pain 

If you would like to learn more about the anatomy of the back or spine, this video may help: 


What Relieves Lower Back Pain? What is the Best Treatment for a Painful Lower Back?

With a fresh onset of low back pain, the best initial treatment is to avoid any activity which increases pain.  Sometimes this means avoid bending forward, prolonged sitting, or prolonged walking or standing activity.  Anti-inflammatory medications may be appropriate, but it is best to consult a physician before beginning a medication regimen.  Ice may help decrease pain during the first 48 to 72 hours.  Heat may bring relief after this point.  

If symptoms persist for more that a few days, it may be best to consult a physician and consider physical therapy. In many cases, physical therapy is the initial first course of treatment before further studies, such as X-rays or MRIs are performed.  Physical therapy is typically aimed at reducing pain, increasing mobility, re-educating muscles, and returning people to their prior activities.  

If there is severe pain or loss of strength or sensation in one or both legs, a physician should be consulted immediately, as this may be a sign of a more serious issue.  For more information about pain down the leg, click this link about Sciatica.


How Should I Sleep with Lower Back Pain?

Difficulty sleeping is a common issue with people dealing with pain in the lower back.  In most situations, the best positions are laying on your back with pillows under the legs/knees to slightly elevate them.  This places the pelvis and lower back in a position which applies less stress to irritated structures.  If side sleeping is preferred, bend the knees and place a pillow between them.  This will help align the pelvis and lower back and limit irritation during sleep.


Is Walking Good for Lower Back Pain?

The answer is, it depends.  Limiting walking is typically recommended during the first 2 to 3 days after the onset of pain but after that, mild walking activity may be appropriate. Movement is typically good, as long as it does not increase symptoms.  It is best to start with a short walk and see how you feel.  If pain is increased, you may want to limit the activity for a few more days.  In many cases, standing and walking is more tolerable than sitting activity.  

Anatomy of the SpineAnatomy of the Spine

Is it Good to Crack Your Back?

Many people who have low back pain ask how to crack their lower back?  Spinal manipulation can be a useful tool for treating some sources of low back pain but it should be performed by a skilled professional.  The "cracking" sound is actually the sound of the synovial fluid in the facet joints of the spine releasing a gas due to a quick change in volume of the joint capsule.  When this happens, the pain receptors in the joint can slow their input and endorphins are released.  It's kind of like hitting the reset button.  This may help to decrease pain and increase mobility.  The sensation can be addictive though.  Repetitive self-manipulation may irritate the low back.

Can Kidneys Cause Lower Back Pain?

Most of the time, pain in the lower back is caused from structures in the spine.  But, in rare cases, pain in the low back may be referred from the kidney.  Pain that is referred from the kidney typically does not change with position.  Symptoms from the kidney may also include nausea, abdominal pain, and abdominal spasms, as well as shoulder pain.

Physical Therapy Treatments For Low Back Pain

A very common area for pain is the low back. Just like there are many reasons for low back pain there are also many ways to treat it in Physical Therapy. Medical massages are becoming more common of a way to treat pain in the lower back as well. Ergonomic education is huge in treating low back pain, as the source of most of the pain comes from how people sit and/or stand for long periods of time. Lastly and perhaps most importantly is keeping up with your health. 

If you want to learn back or spine tips, go to: Spine Tips

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By: Ehren Allen, PT, COMT

Back and Neck Specialists

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