Lower Back Pain
About Lower Back Pain
Lower back pain can present itself in various forms (soreness, numbness, spasms, sharp shooting pain) in either the left or right side, or on both sides at once. It is often reported during activities such as running, squats or deadlifts. Both acute and chronic lower back pain can be attributed to many factors; it is important to identify the symptoms and seek professional help as soon as possible in order to ensure proper injury management.
Causes & Symptoms of Lower Back Pain
The lower back pain or lumbar spine pain or injury is one of the most common reasons for people taking time out of work. There are many causes of lower back pain. Overuse injuries are common, but usually resolve in a few days to a week.
Causes of more chronic lower back pain include:
- Poor posture from sitting at a desk for long periods of time
- Spinal disc injury: a tear, herniation or prolapse. This can put pressure on the nerve root that supplies the legs, right down to the toes, radiating pain into the buttocks, legs to toes. Depending on the level of nerve that is compressed it can also refer pain into the groin area and abdomen
- Spinal stenosis, this is when there is a narrowing of the space within the spinal cord where your nerves are situated. There is a compression on the nerves, which results in pain. This compression is usually due to bony spurs that have developed as a result of degenerative changes (osteoarthritis), so it usually occurs in older people
- Spondylolisthesis where the vertebrae have moved out position either due to trauma from an accident, injury, or from a congenital abnormality
- Osteoarthritis, this is degenerative wear and tear of the joints of the spine as a person ages, due to mechanical load from the upper body
- Lower back muscle strain or lumbar strain from overuse in sports or heavy lifting or twisting at work or at home
- Vertebral fractures from trauma or from osteopenia or osteoporosis: reduced bone density, making the bones more brittle and weak
- Visceral referral from organs such as the prostate, uterus, ovaries, bladder, intestine
- Autoimmune disease such as ankylosing spondylitis, rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis or psoriatic arthritis
- Aortic aneurysm: the aorta is the main artery of the body and is located near to the lower spine, so if there is a bulge in the aorta (aneurysm) it can lead to lower back pain. The pain is not severe until it ruptures, when it becomes a medical emergency
- Cancer: this is rarely the cause of lower back pain but must be ruled out
How do I know if my Back Pain is serious?
You might have Lower back pain on the right side or lower back pain on the left side. If pain creeps on gradually, appears suddenly, or doesn’t go away, you might have a more serious condition.
Here are a list of symptoms to look out for that might indicate you have a more serious condition causing your lower back pain:
- Night sweats
- Neurological symptoms
- Constant pain
- Intense burning pain
Lower Back Pain Treatment
Our Osteopaths or Physiotherapists will use massage, stretching and mobilisation techniques in order to reduce the tension and encourage blood circulation in the areas where you are experiencing pain.
They will also assess the rest of your body to identify other areas that may be the underlying cause, contributing or predisposing factor to your pain, such as a leg length discrepancy or abdominal irritation or inflammation.
If there is a need for further examinations, such as X-ray, MRI or ultrasound, to rule out more serious causes of lower back pain, they will work with, or refer you to, the relevant medical health practitioner.
Our experts will also provide lifestyle, exercise, diet and posture advice that will allow you to speed up recovery and rehabilitation, reduce your long-term vulnerability to the problem and reduce the likelihood of your pain recurring.
A recovery plan should only be administered after properly understanding the cause of pain and the symptoms. Do consult your physiotherapist or osteopath if you are unsure.
Short term solutions (works best for acute/sharp back pain)
- Apply cold compression for short periods (10 mins, 3-4 times daily)
- NSAIDS, painkillers
- Rest: avoid lifting objects, back-bending, and prolonged sitting
- Avoid immobility: perform simple back stretches and core activation exercises
Sufferers of lower back pain often report a reduced quality of sleep, in turn affecting other aspects of life such as work and leisure. It is important to ensure that good sleep is achieved despite lower back pain. Besides popping painkillers, here are some additional tips:
1. Stretch before sleeping
– Stretching the glutes and lower back muscles before going to bed adequately loosens the muscles to allow for movement while asleep. Bonus tip: stretch these same muscles just before getting out of bed in the morning – your muscles are stiff from prolonged immobility after sleeping!
2. Comfortable sleeping position
– Side sleepers: Place one cushion behind your back and another in between your legs. This will prevent any twisting in the back.
– Flat back sleepers: Place a pillow under your knees. This will take any strain off the lower back and prevent any twisting.
Yes! Walking is a low-impact exercise that stretches the hip flexors and strengthens the glutes and back muscles. Walking for 150 mins a week (30 mins x 5 days or 60 mins x 3 days) is recommended. Regularly walking not only reduces the likelihood of recurrent back pain, but improves overall health.
Note: No (or very minimal) pain should be felt while walking. If pain is severe or worsening, please stop immediately.