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Here's one problem you can't turn your back on! But you can get some relief from knowing that
very few people turn out to have a major problem or a dangerous medical condition involving
the bones or joints of the back. In fact, often the exact cause of a person's back pain can't
be pinpointed exactly. Many cases result from everyday activities and clear up by themselves
within a relatively short time period. Whether your back pain requires a doctor's care or not,
chances are you'll be "back" to normal in (almost) no time.
Copyright © September 2005 Sandra Lein and Low Carb Luxury
Back pain may be blamed on poor muscle tone in the back, muscle tension or spasm, back sprains,
ligament or muscle tears, and/or joint problems. If you have a so-called "slipped disc" in your
spinal column, you may suffer buttock or leg pain, numbness, tingling, or weakness in the legs
due to irritation of nerves from the spinal cord. Emotional stress or long periods of inactivity
may worsen back pain.
People in poor physical condition (including obesity) or those who do work that includes heavy
labor or long periods of sitting or standing have a higher risk of developing low back problems;
they also get better more slowly.
Occasionally back pain can be due to other conditions. These include arthritis, ulcers or other
intestinal problems, kidney disease, pregnancy or other gynecological conditions, heart disease,
and cancer. If back pain seems unrelated to an injury or activity, or is in any other way unusual,
a visit to the doctor is recommended.
Back pain is usually confined to the lower back, but it may extend to other areas, particularly
the legs. Affected parts of the back may feel tender or sore to the touch, and the pain may
increase with movement. Pain can be felt as sharp or knife-like, a burning sensation, or as a
dull muscular ache. Symptoms can range from mildly uncomfortable to completely disabling.
Most low back pain can be treated without surgery. Treatment involves using over-the-counter pain
relievers to reduce discomfort and anti-inflammatory drugs to reduce inflammation. The goal of
treatment is to restore proper function and strength to the back, and prevent recurrence of the injury.
Medications are often used to treat acute and chronic low back pain. Effective pain relief may involve a
combination of prescription drugs and over-the-counter remedies. Although the use of cold and hot
compresses has never been scientifically proven to quickly resolve low back injury, compresses may
help reduce pain and inflammation and allow greater mobility for some individuals. Bed rest is
recommended for only 1 to 2 days at most. Individuals should resume activities as soon as possible.
Exercise may be the most effective way to speed recovery from low back pain and help strengthen back
and abdominal muscles. In the most serious cases, when the condition does not respond to other therapies,
surgery may relieve pain caused by back problems or serious musculoskeletal injuries.
What is the prognosis?
Most patients with back pain recover without residual functional loss, but individuals should contact
a doctor if there is not a noticeable reduction in pain and inflammation after 72 hours of self-care.
Recurring back pain resulting from improper body mechanics or other nontraumatic causes is often
preventable. Engaging in exercises that don't jolt or strain the back, maintaining correct posture,
and lifting objects properly can help prevent injuries. Many work-related injuries are caused or
aggravated by stressors such as heavy lifting, vibration, repetitive motion, and awkward posture.
Applying ergonomic principles — designing furniture and tools to protect the body from
injury — at home and in the workplace can greatly reduce the risk of back injury and help
maintain a healthy back.