Lower back pain is a condition which ranges from mild ache and stiffness to severe and debilitating pain in the lumbosacral region and it is often exacerbated or prolonged to a chronic condition by such mental or emotional states as depression, excessive stress over an extended period of time, unhappiness due to dissatisfaction over work, domestic, relational or financial situations and many other similar distresses.
Causes of Lower Back Pain
Lower back pain is usually set off by overuse, improper use, strain of the muscles, or any number of injuries to the muscles, ligaments or discs which support the lower portion of the spine. Typically, lower back pain tends to be cumulative because symptoms lead to adjustment of posture and altered movements which in turn can lead to other injuries and so on and on.
The most commonly occurring triggers of lower back pain are:
- Injuries or abuse to the muscles, ligaments or the facet and sacroiliac joints.
- Compression or pressure on the nerve roots brought on by: a) herniated discs caused by repeated vibration or motion, by strain or increased pressure; b) deterioration of the joints (osteoarthritis) which is usually age related; c) defects of the vertebra (spondylolysis and spondylolisthesis) that enable one vertebra to slide over another; d) age related narrowing of the spinal canal (spinal stenosis); e) fractures to the vertebrae caused by forces such as vehicular accidents and a fall; f) abnormal curvatures of the spine such as scoliosis, lordosis or kyphosis; g) compression fractures in osteoporosis patients or the prolonged use of corticosteroids caused by sudden movements such as sneezing.
Less frequently appearing but well known causes for lower back pain are:
- Inflammation of the joints (arthritis) which most often affects the spine and is referred to as ankylosing spondylitis.
- Bacterial infections in the bone (osteomyelitis), in the spinal discs or within the spinal cord.
- Tumors or growths which develop on the bones and the ligaments of the lower spine or on the spinal cord or the nerve roots.
- Paget’s disease leads to abnormal growth of bones and it can affect not only the spine, but also the pelvic bone, the skull, the chest bone and the leg bones.
- Scheuermann’s disease is a condition that promotes wedge-shaped spinal bone (vertebrae) deformities.
- Pelvic inflammatory disease.
- Aortic aneurysm.
- Peptic ulcers.
- Gallbladder disease.
- Kidney stones.
- Urinary tract infections.
- Prostate disease.
Relieving Lower Back Pain
To relieve lower back pain the natural way calls for:
- Resting for twenty four to forty eight hours by reclining on the back on a hard surface with the knees and hips bent. To prevent the weakening of muscles, hourly breaks from the reclined position should be incorporated with careful walks for a few minutes at a time.
- Hot compresses to relax the muscle spasms.
- Ice packs help numb the painful areas and reduce inflammation and swelling.
- Alternating between hot and cold applications increases the blood flow to the affected area and, therefore, expedites the healing process.
- Over-the-counter drugs such as aspirin, acetaminophen (Tylenol), naproxen (Aleve) ketoprofen (Orudis) and ibuprofen (Motrin) are all pain reducing medications that can also decrease the swelling and the inflammation.
- Alternative therapies such as massage, chiropractic, physical therapy, acupressure and acupuncture can be very helpful as well.
When natural remedies are not sufficient, it may be time for conventional medicine in the following situations:
- The pain radiates down the leg and below the knee.
- Numbness of the leg, foot, groin or rectal areas.
- Fever, stomachache with or without nausea and vomiting, general weakness and inappropriate sweating.
- Sudden loss of rectal functions.
- The pain is severe enough to make moving impossible.
- The pain persists for longer than two or three weeks.
Preventing Lower Back Pain
- Using the legs and arms but never the back when lifting.
- Pushing heavy objects but never pulling.
- Stretching often and exercising regularly.
- Wearing flat or low-heel shoes.