When to Worry About your Lower Back Pain

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Back Pain

The lower back, also known as the lumbar region, contains nerves that carry messages to and from the brain. Additionally, your lower back contains muscles and discs that support the upper body and provide flexibility for bending and twisting. If the lower back area has experienced an injury to any of its major components, the pain is frequent and excruciating.

Lower back pain is comprised of a wide variety of symptoms. The pain may range from mild and aggravating to severe and incapacitating. When left unattended, pain in the lower lumbar region will worsen over time.

If you have experienced any of the following symptoms in the lower back area, you should consider getting an accurate diagnosis of the cause, and information about the best treatment options available.

Common Lower Back Region Pain Symptoms

Many people experience pain in the lower lumbar region after suffering injuries to the muscles, nerves, joints, or discs located in this area. The lower back is extremely sensitive to injury, so it protects itself by activating an inflammatory healing effect.

Most people ignore the minor soreness caused by inflammation, or treat the discomfort with an over the counter pain medication. However, inflammation is the first indication that you need to address your lower back pain.

According to the American Chiropractic Association, 80 percent of Americans will experience some sort of lower back discomfort in their lifetime. Furthermore, pain associated with lower back sprains and ruptured discs is the leading disability worldwide, as well as the second leading reason Americans call out of work. Here are some common symptoms that indicate you should seek medical attention:

  • A persistent ache that intensifies when you lift heavy objects or after you move around too much
  • Debilitating pain that feels like a burning sensation and travels from the cusp of the back to the hip and thigh areas
  • Tingling sensations or numbness that shifts from the low back area to the legs and feet (sciatica)
  • Muscle spasms and stiffness in the lower back, pelvis and hips
  • Soreness and throbbing that worsens after sitting and standing
  • The inability to stand up with ease after bending down or going from sitting to standing
  • The feeling of pins and needles in the legs

Both men and women are affected by lower back problems. While most back pain is temporary, a sedentary lifestyle or strenuous exertion can accelerate a degenerative back condition.

Lower back problems are generally classified two ways: sub-acute or chronic. Sub-acute low back problems may last from four to twelve weeks, typically clearing up with rest and limited lifting. Chronic back pain lasts from twelve weeks to the duration of a person’s lifetime. Chronic back symptoms must be treated by a medical professional.

A study conducted by the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS) reveals that 20 percent of Americans suffering from sub-acute lower back symptoms will experience chronic back pain within a year because they ignore the early signs.

Remedies for Lower Back Pain

In 2017, the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) released a report that disclosed the amount of money the American public spends on treating lower back problems. Americans spend $87.6 billion annually on prescription and home-care remedies to treat lower back issues. The report also reveals that tens of thousands of people have died from overdosing on opioid prescriptions used to treat back pain, and more than 2 million people are addicted to opioid prescriptions taken to relieve back problems.

Due to this epidemic, The American Chiropractic Association (ACA) has taken a drug-free approach to treating lower back and musculoskeletal pain. Furthermore, the American College of Physicians (ACP) has revised its lower lumbar pain therapy guidelines to support a more moderate approach to care. The guidelines suggest heat therapy, gentle massage, acupressure and spinal manipulation alignment as non-invasive and non-drug related therapies.

Other home remedies for lower back pain include: topical medications, adopting an alkaline diet, taking an Epsom Salt bath and doing some light stretching. Topical medications include gels, creams, and patches made with natural herbs, Comfrey, Brazilian-arnica, or essential oils. Natural lavender oil or ointments mixed with cayenne peppers have been known to provide immediate relief. Icy Hot, Biofreeze and Tiger Balm are two popular over the counter topical medications used to treat sub-acute back pain. Stretching loosens up sore muscles and strengthens muscles that have weakened due to overuse. Taking an Epsom Salt bath is soothing because the salt contains magnesium, which is a mineral the body needs to reduce inflammation.

Tips to Reduce Lower Back Issues

The first tip that will help prevent or manage lower back pain is to maintain a healthy weight. Individuals diagnosed as overweight or obese are at a higher risk of developing lower back problems. Next, try to avoid long periods of sitting down, standing up or inactivity. Creating a healthy balance between activity and rest is essential to preventing and reducing lower lumbar problems.

You should also ask for help when picking up heavy objects, and use proper lifting techniques if you have to lift a large object by yourself. For example, bend your knees and squat down to lift the object from the bottom with two hands. When you stand up, straighten your legs and catch your balance. Keep the object close to your body, and set it down if it gets too heavy to carry. Additionally, avoid lifting heavy objects above the shoulder and head areas. Fitness enthusiasts should ask a certified trainer about proper weight lifting techniques to avoid strained lower back muscles and to maximize strength conditioning.

Women should reduce how often they wear high-heels or how far they walk in high-heels. Wearing comfortable, low-heeled shoes is the better option. Men should limit wearing pointy-toed dress shoes and high-top sneakers. Both types of footwear interfere with proper body mechanics. Men and women should avoid wearing flip flops and open-toed sandals, as this type of footwear causes the body to overcompensate in the lower back and hip areas.

Lastly, sleep on a firm mattress to minimize spinal discomfort and curvature. Addressing your lower back problems begins with paying attention to recurring or nagging symptoms.

About the Author:

Ethel Huizar is a passionate Health Promoter who graduated from Master of Public Health, University of Colorado. Ethel loves exploring health-related topics, writing and doing research. Her writing aims to inform people on the number of ways nature and science can help them lead healthier lives. That is why she recently started a project named Health Row, a site with great health tips, descriptions of medical devices and information about medical conditions.

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