Lower Back Pain

Lower back pain can be described as any pain that affects the area from the bottom of the ribs at the back down to the top of the legs. It is very common, and most cases of lower back pain are not considered serious, as they usually sort themselves out over a period of days or weeks.


Lower back pain is generally called acute if it has lasted less than six weeks, sub-acute if it is lasted six to twelve weeks and chronic if it has lasted longer than twelve weeks.


Symptoms of Lower Back Pain


Lower back pain can either start suddenly after an obvious strain or injury, such as lifting a heavy object or being in a road traffic accident, or seem to start out of nowhere. Sometimes the pain is worse when bending forwards or when sitting, and can it can even be painful to change positions in bed or to sit up.


In some cases, coughing or sneezing may make the pain worse, and the muscles in the lower back may spasm. Lower back pain can also be accompanied by pain down the leg, even past the knee.


Causes of Lower Back Pain


Most cases of simple, or mechanic lower back pain, such as the symptoms described above, are caused by a strain of the lower back muscles or other soft tissue, such as the ligaments or tendons that are attached to the vertebrae. When the interbertebral discs, which act as cushions or shock absorbers between the vertebrae, become strained, damaged or swollen, they can press on the sciatic nerve, causing the pain down the leg as described above.


When to see a doctor for Lower Back Pain


Usually, lower back pain will work itself out in a few days. If you have tried a combination of rest and mild pain medication, such as Ibuprofen or Paracetamol, over the course of several weeks, and the pain has not lessened, you may wish to consult a doctor. Chronic lower back pain, or any lower back pain lasting more than twelve weeks, should certainly be assessed by a physician.


There are other red flags that, when combined with lower back pain, should indicate that a visit to the doctor is necessary. These red flags include being under the age of twenty or over the age of fifty-five, having a fever or having recently lost a great amount of weight, the pain is constant and is continually getting worse, the pain starts after a violent injury, or you have now or have had cancer in the past.


Diagnosis and Treatment of of Lower Back Pain


Your doctor may arrange for a CT scan or an MRI in order to investigate the cause of your lower back pain. Both of these tests are helpful because they show both the skeletal frame and the softer tissues such as muscles and intervertebral discs.


Those with less severe problems may find physiotherapy, chiropractic or osteopathy helpful in recovery. The best way to help this type of lower back pain is to stay active, rather than spending days or weeks immobile in bed. More severe problems may require more aggressive treatment, including anti-inflammatory or steroid therapy, and in the worst cases, injections and surgery.