Lower back pain. The chances are you’ve had it, or will. About 80 percent of us suffer from lower back pain (LBP) at some point. The discomfort can range from an ongoing dull ache to a sudden, sharp pain. LBP affects women and men equally.
LBP is the second most common cause of disability in the U.S. (The top cause is conditions including cancer, heart attack and diabetes.)
Although lower back pain is common, the good news is: You’ll likely recover — in most cases within a few months (this is known as acute back pain). Chronic back pain lasting more than three months is less common.
What Can Cause Lower Back Pain?
Back pain can start suddenly or it can come on over time. It can be caused by:
- Weak back and abdominal muscles. People who are sedentary tend to be more susceptible to back pain.
- Excessive weight. Those extra pounds can put extra stress on your back muscles.
- Aging of the spine and supporting muscles. Lower back pain can start while you’re in your 30s or later. With aging, bones lose strength and muscles lose their elasticity.
- Incorrectly lifting something heavy. This can happen at home or on the job.
- Pregnancy. Lower back pain can be one of the many (temporary) changes in your body.
How Can You Prevent Lower Back Pain?
The best cure for lower back pain is prevention.
- Keep active! Low-impact fitness activities such as fast walking, swimming or bike riding (stationary or on the street) can boost your muscle strength and keep your body’s muscles balanced.
Yoga can help you strengthen your muscles and stay flexible. It can also help improve your posture, which can help reduce risk for back pain.
- Mind your posture. Mom was right. You should stand up straight and sit up tall. Poor posture increases stress on your back.
- Take care lifting heavy objects. Lift with your knees, keep your back straight, keep objects close to your body and avoid twisting.
- Ditch excess weight. Your health care provider can guide you on setting your weight goal and managing your weight.
- Make sure your work spaces at home and work are set up properly. If you have to bend over or reach too far when you’re working, the stress can build up and lead to pain. Check the ergonomic set up of your work space.
- Wear comfortable, low-heeled shoes.
What’s the Treatment for Short-Term Back Pain?
If you have lower back pain:
- Take some acetaminophen, aspirin or ibuprofen. Follow the label directions. If pregnant, ask your health care professional about taking a pain reliever.
- Try hot or cold packs. Applying one to the painful area may reduce pain and inflammation.
- Try a topical analgesic. These products are creams or sprays you apply to the skin over your pain. They create a feeling of warmth or cold to reduce discomfort.
- Consider visiting a chiropractor. The doctor will manipulate your back and spine, usually by hand, to reduce discomfort. Multiple visits may be needed.
- Consider acupuncture. This ancient treatment works to balance the flow of natural energy, called Qi (chee), along pathways in the body.
- Keep moving. Avoid activities that cause you back pain, but get back to your normal routine as soon as practical. Be sensible about your physical activities. Some studies show that bed rest can actually slow back pain recovery.
If your condition does not get better with these treatments, or pain is too severe to tolerate any of the above, consult one of Aurora’s board certified spine or pain management specialist for a complete and comprehensive evaluation of your spine. You can schedule an appointment or find a provider online!
The information presented in this site is intended for general information and educational purposes. It is not intended to replace the advice of your own physician. Contact your physician if you believe you have a health problem.