by Holly Demetrescu, PA-C
Low back pain? You’re not alone. Ninety percent of Americans will experience low back pain at some time in their lives. Next to headaches, back pain is the most common complaint to health providers. Fortunately, most cases of low back pain are self-limiting. Forty percent resolve in one month or less, and by 3 months, 75 percent will be resolved. Only 1 to 2 percent of cases are surgical.
A common cause of low back pain is generally due to a sprain or strain. A strain occurs when a muscle or tendon is pulled or torn, causing pain and inflammation. Overstressing a muscle or improper lifting or twisting is the usual suspect in acute strain. Chronic strain, lasting longer than 3 months, may result from long-term overuse or repetitive motion of your low back. A fall, sudden twist, or blow to the body can stretch or tear a ligament resulting in a sprain.
Symptoms of strain or sprain are similar and can include pain ranging from a dull ache to a stabbing sensation made worse with movement. You may have decreased mobility and functionality, such as trouble sitting, standing, bending or twisting.
Severe back pain after a fall or injury should be checked out by a health care professional.
To help your doctor diagnose the origin of your low back pain, be as specific as you can in describing the type of pain. Let them know details such as, when your pain started, if you have any other related symptoms, and if you have had previous history of back injury or chronic back conditions.
Both sprains and strains can be treated conservatively with anti-inflammatories like Ibuprofen or acetaminophen. In the first 24 to 48 hours, use ice on your back to reduce pain and inflammation. After 48 hours, alternate icing the area with the application of a heating pad or taking warm baths. Pain relieving creams or patches can also be helpful.
You should return to normal activities as soon as possible, (avoid heavy lifting or twisting). Staying in bed beyond the first one or two days post-injury is not recommended and has been shown to prolong symptoms and slow down the recovery process. Get up and move! Stretching, walking, physical therapies have great benefits.
Those at a higher risk for developing low back pain tend to be overweight, are inactive, have physically demanding jobs with heavy lifting and those who play sports or do exercises that involve pushing, pulling and twisting, such as weightlifting, football or golf. Most people first experience low back pain when in their 30s, and the chance of reoccurrence increases with age.
The information provided is for general interest only and should not be misconstrued as a diagnosis, prognosis or treatment recommendation. This information does not in any way constitute the practice of medicine, or any other health care profession. Readers are directed to consult their health care provider regarding their specific health situation. Marque Medical is not liable for any action taken by a reader based upon this information.