What is Low Back Pain?
Low back pain can affect the back anywhere below the ribs and above the legs. The lower back is the connection between the upper and lower body, and it bears most of the body's weight. Because of these roles, it is easily injured when you lift, reach or twist.
Almost everyone has low back pain at one time or another. The good news is that most low back pain will go away in a few weeks with some basic self-care. But if your pain is severe or lasts more than a couple of weeks, see your doctor.
What Causes Low Back Pain?
Some types of low back pain have no known causes. Others can be traced to injury such as sprains, strains or medical conditions.
What Are the Symptoms?
Depending on the cause, low back pain can cause a range of symptoms. It may:
- Be dull, burning or sharp.
- Be felt at a single point or over a broad area.
- Come on gradually or suddenly.
- Occur with muscle spasms or stiffness.
- Cause leg symptoms, such as pain, numbness or tingling, often extending below the knee.
- These symptoms can occur on their own or along with low back pain. Leg symptoms are often caused by lower spine problems that place pressure on a nerve that leads to the leg.
- A rare but serious problem called cauda equina syndrome can occur if the nerves at the end of the spinal cord are squeezed. Seek emergency treatment if you have weakness or numbness in both legs, or loss of bladder or bowel control.
What Are the Treatments?
The good news for many is that low back pain is a self-limiting condition that will go away with simple bed rest. For others, it may become a chronic problem requiring further treatment.
- Physical therapy: assists in relieving symptoms and teaches patients how to prevent future recurrences.
- Medications: can help to reduce pain and inflammation.
- Epidural steroid injections: ESIs deliver anti-inflammatory medication directly to the inflamed area and provide temporary relief.
- Exercises: can be helpful in alleviating painful symptoms and preventing pain from recurring in the future.
- A physical therapist or your doctor can recommend the most beneficial exercises for your symptoms.