Lower Back Pain - Types, Causes, Symptoms and Treatment at Home
Lower Back Pain
Types, Causes, Symptoms and Treatment at Home
Do you suffer from lower back pain? If you don’t, you probably know someone who does. Or, worse yet, you know someone who is a martyr to their back pain. Low back pain is a universal human experience – almost everyone will get it at some point (WebMD, A Visual Guide to Low Back Pain).
You are not alone;
“Almost 80 percent of adults experience lower back pain at some point in their lifetime”
In North America, the cost of medical expenditures alone for lower back pain is estimated at between $50 billion and $100 billion annually, as well as the additional costs associated with loss in worker productivity due to time off work, and the associated disability payments.
In this article we will shed some light on:
Types of Lower Back Pain:
Don’t be afraid, this won’t be a physiology lesson. But, just like when you learned to drive a car, you didn’t have to know the inner workings of the engine or the braking system, but you needed to know to put the key in the ignition, and where the gas pedal and brake pedal were, it is helpful to know something about your back, so that you can be armed and informed on how to actively participate in your own recovery. Information will be your instructor to teach you how to become pain-free, and help you to stay pain-free.
There are three main types of lower back pain:
Caused by Disc
Caused by Facet Joints and
Caused by Muscle Strain
Lower Back Pain Caused By Disc
Think of the disc as a jelly donut. The jelly is the part that creates the shock absorbing effect of the spine. This part of the spine that doesn’t have much sensation (no nerves) and doesn’t have a good blood supply. This means that injuries to this area do not heal very well because there is a lack of nerves and a poor blood supply. Therefore, any damage to the area gets worse over time.
Note the onion ring “donut” part of the disc. With acute or repetitive injury, the pressure of the jelly pushes through the annulus and eventually pops out (herniated disc) at the weakest point and touches a nerve which pinches a nerve leading to sciatica pain. For most of you, this is not the case: it's more likely to be general pressure on the “donut” part of the disc due to repetitive injury or poor spinal stability. This type of pain usually hurts more when you bend forward (which therapists call flexion intolerance). This is the type of injury and pain you really want to avoid. With a poor blood supply, there is minimal healing and, overtime, it will increase your chances of degenerative disc disease, which may lead to surgery. Not good!
Lower Back Pain Caused By Facet Joints
This is the main joint in the spine and is the cause of a great deal of acute and chronic pain. These “cute” joints are important for proper twisting and turning in the spine. However, when your core and spinal areas are weak, or when you injure yourself in an extended position (for example, just leaning back), the joint gets irritated, leading to inflammation of the joint. The initial occurrence of facet syndromes can feel very debilitating because there is lots of nerve supply and sensation to that joint.
Lower Back Pain Caused By Muscle Strain
Most people think the back muscles are the cause of their lower back pain. How many times have you heard people say “I must have pulled a muscle in my back”. Well, in most cases of lower back pain, it’s the joints that start the pain process. In fact, the big muscles in the back will actually try to “splint” down the area, but subsequently cause more irritation of the area which in turn causes tiredness, dull aches, and general soreness. You will need to relax these muscles by massaging the area with your hands (or someone else’s hands), with a massage ball or a foam roller, as soon as possible, to avoid more pressure on the joint.
Lower Back Pain Symptoms-- When to see a doctor
Back pain can come on suddenly, especially from a sports or workout injury or from lifting something heavy, or just lifting in an improper way. In such case, you’ve probably just strained a muscle. This type of back pain will often go away by itself when the muscle heals, as long as you don’t repeat the move that caused the injury. It goes without saying that if the pain is severe, especially after a fall or an injury and your symptoms include loss of bowel or bladder control, numbness in the groin area, leg weakness, fever, and or pain when coughing or urinating, contacting a doctor would be the best choice.
Causes of Lower Back Pain
Although, there are multiple reasons which can lead to lower back pain, like injury, shock to your spine and even sleeping wrong, some of the most common reasons leading to lower back pain are listed below.
The data is overwhelming now, that regular exercise, even just walking for 30 minutes, three times per week is key to overall good health. Your spine is supported by the back muscles and strong stomach muscles, so we need to exercise to keep them in good shape. Lifting weights is helpful for strengthening particular muscles but everyday movements such as walking, climbing stairs, biking or even swimming has a protective effect for the discs in your spine. The emphasis here is on “regular” daily exercise. Sitting, slouched at your desk five days a week and then rushing out on the weekend to right a week of wrongs will do more harm than good. More importantly, once you have incorporated general exercise into your lifestyle, let’s add specific ones that will help stabilize your spine. Make it a practice to do them on a regular basis to prevent future occurrences.
Sports – Crossfitters Beware
This is supposed to be a good thing, isn’t it? Keeping fit, strengthening your muscles, getting that toned, sleek body. But as we all know, you can overdo it; especially if you regularly practice the “no pain, no gain” mantra. If you play a sport, like golf, where a correct posture is required and you don’t practice it, or warm up your muscles first, that can also lead to back pain. Chiropractor and strength coach, Dr. Jim Feng, has seen an increase in the number of Crossfitters and P90Xers flocking to his practice after a bad lift or just overdoing it. The biggest and most common cause is inability of the spine and core muscles to protect themselves while lifting such a high load, especially in spinal loaded positions such as deadlifts and squats. These movements are essential for proper function but it should be progressed slowly and taught correctly through mindful practice.
This should be at No.1 because it’s something that we’re all guilty of: slouching, not sitting up straight, as well as the new “sin on the block”: sitting for too long. They say that’s as bad a smoking. When you sit at your desk all day, hunched over, rarely getting up to walk, it puts a great deal of stress on your upper body, neck, and spine, which in turn puts pressure on your lower back because it supports the upper body. This is especially bad if you are not in the habit of exercising regularly. Regular exercise strengthens your body and helps it to cope with bad posture, although it is ideal is to maintain good posture at all times.
Is this shocking to you? It shouldn’t be. Smoking can lead to back pain. In fact, according to research, smokers are 3 times more likely to get back pain. This is what happens: it curbs blood flow, including to your spine, which means that less oxygen and nutrients reach your spine. This in turn makes the cushioning discs between your bones break down quicker. Even coughing as a result of smoking can cause back pain. The message is clear, for the sake of your back, quit now.
How many of us know how to lift a box off the ground correctly? Unless you work in an environment where lifting is part of your job, most of us never learn how to lift objects correctly. It’s remarkable to see how many people still bend their backs when lifting, or try to lift with just their knees. All of this will lead to some kind of back injury. We should learn how to effectively use all of our joints in a coordinated fashion. Think of all the joints and muscles as little soldiers; alone they are weak, but together they can fend off all enemies. The trick is to maintain your spine in a neutral position, meaning, keeping the same curve when you’re standing while you are bending and lifting. It is very important to learn how to lift correctly.
You can check out some of the lower back pain solutions on the Phyxable app to treat and prevent lower back pain.
These are just a few of the many reasons why we get lower back pain, some are familiar, some not. It is interesting to note that about 85% of back pain has no specific cause. Whatever the cause of your back pain though, there are solutions; but it takes patience, persistence and commitment to find the right solution for you.
Lower Back Pain Treatment At Home
Treating your lower back by yourself begins by understanding your pain level first and then being consistent and mindful in treating it. You have lower back pain. What do you do now? Be one of the few who seek help.
Stoicism is passé! Besides, if you have had it for 3 months or longer, it is considered chronic and it’s affecting the “one life you have to live”. Get a diagnosis and move on from there.
“50% of chronic pains can be treated by yourself without any need of going to a chiropractor or physiotherapist”
In today’s time, when technology is in your hand, you can easily find some really useful YouTube Videos or mobile apps for lower back treatment at home.
“ Lower Back Pain treatment starts by exercising. Exercise is key. Exercise is crucial. Exercise is a must. “Motion is Lotion” is a constant mantra of my chiropractor.”
You are in control of your physical future. If you don’t have lower back pain at the moment, or you had it for a short while, but it went away without any intervention, you are fortunate. Still, you probably don’t want another episode at any time in the future. Recurrence in the first few years is about 33% of all back-pain sufferers so that means that one-third of you will suffer from another bout of pain without proper prevention. (Journal of Orthopaedic & Sports Physical Therapy 2017)
The right time to start is now.
These are some lower back pain remedies and practices you can follow in treating your pain and prevent injuries.
Practice Good Posture
This is number one on the list. Here is a simple exercise that will work wonders if practiced consistently.
Sit up straight or stand up. Next, nod your neck (making a double chin) and pull your head towards your spine. (You should be able to draw an imaginary straight line from your earlobe to your shoulder.)
Repeat this every hour, elongating your neck and holding that position for five seconds. Your neck pain will reduce in no time. Feel free to check out the posture fix on the Phyxable app for guided sessions on improving posture.
You should do this for 21 days to form the habit.
Lower back pain treatment starts with exercising. Working out 3 days a week can have significant effect in keeping you pain free. If working out is too much time consuming for you, try walking for 30 minutes at least 3 times per week and you will be surprised.
Build Your Armour
There is a great deal of research by Dr. Stu McGill and researchers from Australia on the effects of core stability and mobility, and strengthening of the spine. This is the knowledge that most good chiropractors and physical therapists base their practice on. Why wouldn’t you do the same? These are key core muscle groups and key mobility exercises that can take the pain away as well as keep your spine stable to prevent future occurrences. This is what practitioners like Dr. Stu Mcgill and Dr. Jim Feng from Phyxable are basing their self-help programs on. They are tried, tested and true, and are delivered in a fun way.
Get Up From Your Desk
If you sit at a desk for most of the day, make a conscious decision, maybe even set an alarm on your computer or your phone to get up and stretch, or walk around for a few minutes, maybe even jog on the spot (without disturbing your colleagues of course).
Maintain A Healthy Weight
Eat amazing foods, look into new strategies like intermittent fasting and other methods to motivate yourself to lose a few pounds. Every 5 lbs that you lose is a big factor in preventing wear and tear on your spine.
It bears repeating that around 80% of people will get some form of back pain during their lifetime. But, look on the bright side, 20-40% of people don’t get lower back pain. If you’ve not yet had any back pain, practice preventative care, and beat the odds. On the other bright side, most injury-related lower back pain can be prevented with proper lifting techniques and building your body strength with the right exercises and stretches to prevent future occurrences.
1. WedMD: A Visual Guide to Low Back Pain
2. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke
3. Gordon, Rebecca and Bloxham, Saul. A Systematic Review of the Effects of Exercise and Physical Activity on Non-Specific Chronic Low Back Pain Published online 2016 Apr 25. doi: 10.3390/healthcare4020022
4. Tatiane da Silva, MRes et al. Journal of Orthopaedic & Sports Physical Therapy, 2017 Volume:47 Issue:5 Pages:305–313 DOI:10.2519/jospt.2017.7415
5. Bone and Joint Canada
6. American Chiropractic Association (2017) Back Pain Facts and Statistics. [Online] Available from: https://www.acatoday.org/Patients/Health-Wellness-Information/Back-Pain-Facts-and-Statistics [Accessed 12 February 2019]v