Regarded as one of the most common physical ailments, Back pain is experienced by people at some or the other stage in their lives. As a matter of fact, nearly eight out of 10 individuals have some sort of back issues at some point in their lives. More than infections, lower back pain has increasingly become lifestyle related. Pain in the region of back below the rib cage is usually considered as lower back pain. This part of the back is called the lumbosacral area.
It may occur due to sitting for too long in the same position, or because of all the work we end up doing while standing up. Furthermore, it can also get aggravated owing to poor posture, spending hours in front of a screen and calcium deficiency as well. While popping over the counter painkillers to ease the pain might seem to provide temporary relief, it is paramount for you to know that lower back pain can be the harbinger of something more severe.
A seemingly harmless back pain could lead to something that needs urgent medical attention and more often than not, the most dangerous medical conditions may not feel menacing because of mild pain. After all, this is where the all important spinal cord resides so you need to thread carefully! It plays the role of communication from your brain to the rest of your body so you to be absolutely sure that nothing comes in between those two channels. Furthermore, your back is a complex system comprising of not only the bones of your spine and pelvis but also consists of your all-important muscles, tendons and ligaments that hold them together. Through this article, we have put together the must know bits about where your back pain stems from, symptoms and what you need to do to keep your back as healthy as possible.
Symptoms of Lower Back Pain
Back pain is a major symptom in itself. Here we review the symptoms associated with lower back pain. If you have unbearable lower back pain, relax! The good news is that the most severe back pain tends to not be the most dangerous thing. What should ideally get the alarm bells ringing instead are diseases which are present with mild pain.
Here is a list of things you should try figuring about your lower back pain or at least try recalling to help zero in on the cause. Here are a few questions you should ask yourself before visiting a doctor. Treatments options for each are different, so a good evaluation is necessary.
How did it start?
Did it start after a particular activity?
Since how long has the pain been there?
How long do the episodes last? Knowing this even approximately is good enough
- Nature of pain
Is it always there? If yes, is it continuous and non-stop pain?
What does it feel like? Sharp and shooting, dull and aching, unbearable, tearing or throbbing? Of course, the pain you experienced need not always fit into these set descriptions but go ahead with it nonetheless.
- How severe is the pain?
Can you continue daily activities or is even sleeping disturbed to a large extent?
- What relieves or aggravates it?
- Do you have any family history of lower back pain?
Causes of Lower Back Pain
After you are done ascertaining the root cause, you would no doubt be curious to know about the reasons behind the recurring back pain. In most cases, lower back pain with no other worrying symptom is generally attributed to muscular strain and can be easily treated with painkillers. But here’s the thing, just because it seems harmless, you should not ignore it and still try to investigate further. Lower back pain causes can be put under different headings which are musculoskeletal, inflammatory, infectious and neoplastic.
Musculoskeletal is anything that involves the muscles and the bony structures present in the back. Most common cause is straining of your muscles owing to you sitting for too long or poor posture. Vertebral disc prolapse, herniation of nucleus pulposus and compression fraction are some of the other causes.
Inflammatory causes include anything that causes inflammation of the structures in the back. Inflammation explained in layman’s terms is basically irritation so it involves swelling, reddening, throbbing pain and a warm, sensitive back. It can occur as a result of an infection or an injury. These causes include reactive arthritis, ankylosing spondylitis, psoriatic arthritis and sometimes, even inflammatory bowel disease. In some cases, you may suffer from autoimmune diseases, wherein the body’s own immune system attacks itself and may affect the functioning of the bones and muscles in the back as well.
Infectious causes are more prominent in the developing countries and lead to osteomyelitis. The causative organism may depend upon where you live, or if you’ve visited any particular country falling into that category recently.
The most dreaded of all the causes has got to be malignancy. Bones have a rich supply of blood and the vertebrae have a lot of blood vessels coming in and out which are in constant contact with them. This makes it easier for cancer to spread from lungs, liver, breasts, ovaries, thyroid to the other organs.
Additionally, if you happen to experience any of the below-listed symptoms, you may need to undertake a further evaluation to rule out something more threatening.
- Loss of sensation anywhere in the body
- Loss of ability to move a particular body part or unexplained limb weakness Loss of control over urination and/ or defecation
- Unexplained weight loss
- Fall or injury at an old age
Treatment of Lower Back Pain
Most doctors would recommend doing an X-Ray and CT Scan before proceeding with the diagnosis. The X-ray would help in highlighting any bony pathologies such as fracture, osteomyelitis or osteoporosis while the CT Scan would help outline the soft tissue structures in the back.
Usually, all common lower back pains can be relieved with the help of a pain-killer such Paracetamol as it’s often diagnosed as a muscular strain. This along with some rest while avoiding heavy lifting should be enough to ease the pain. Hot or cold packs may be of some help in relieving pain. If the pain is persistent, the problem may be further investigated and sometimes even surgery may be advised.