Low back pain is identified as the leading disability contributor. Pain results in a reduced level of physical activity, negative psychological effects and reduction in the quality of life. Low back pain is experienced by approximately 70–85% of all people during their lifetimes, and in 40% of cases acute pain develops to chronic. This complaint is one of the most common reasons why patients intent to visit their physician.
Low back pain is a personal problem, but it may trigger time and economic losses, thereby becoming a social problem. In the United States, back pain-related lost productive work time in workers aged between 40 and 65 years costs employers almost $8 billion per year and about $50 billion is spent annually on low back pain treatments.
Causes and signs
LBP is more common in women than in men and has a variety of causes, including impaired movement patterns, abnormal alignment, and impaired stabilization of the lumbar spine. It is a serious disease that affects social productivity and may influence society in a large sense.
The principal cause of low back pain is poor posture. Other causes include weakened muscles, obesity, which affects many people today, weakened muscle strength resulting from insufficient exercise, and abnormal gait. Low back pain in the acute phase may result from abnormality in the back, lumbar, and abdominal muscles associated with problems with the ligaments, muscles, and intervertebral discs.
In most cases, a person experiencing low back pain should visit his or her physician. Moreover, if you experience some other serious symptoms related to your back pain, do not hesitate to contact your physician as soon as possible.
Typically the physician may diagnose the problem by performing physical examination. Other diagnostic tests can be used to confirm or clarify the diagnosis and/or to rule out other possible causes. When pain is severe and is not relieved within 2 to 3 months, a specific diagnosis is needed to determine individual treatment. These diagnostic methods include X-ray which is used to test spinal instabilities, tumors or fractures, CT scan for herniated disc or spinal stenosis, myelogram for identification of problems within the spine itself, and MRI scan which is useful to assess lumbar discs, nerve roots, spinal infections or tumors.
Treatment and self-help options
As in most cases of pain, a patient with low back pain will be prescribed with non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs or other painkillers. If the pain is moderate or severe and not managed with previously mentioned medicines, stronger painkillers may be prescribed, such as opioid analgesics. If the pain does not disappear for too long, surgery may be considered, if it is appropriate in the individual case.
The most important self-help low back pain management step is the correction of the posture.
The first condition for having correct spinal posture is optimal load on the skeletal system. The second condition is a balance between antagonistic muscle groups, as muscles in each joint facilitate balance and stability. The third condition is optimal activity of internal body systems.
Then you are experiencing low back pain resting and cooling of the painful area can be very helpful. After a few days cooling may be changed to heating, as it improves better blood circulation and enhances healing process. A patient should get back to the physical activity quite soon after the pain disappears. Gentle back motion/mobility exercises should be practiced, followed by the back strengthening exercises as they help to prevent future low back pain episodes.