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What is Low Back Pain?

Low back pain, lumbago, is a painful condition affecting the lower, or lumbar, portion of the spine. It is most often caused by musculoskeletal conditions but can be caused by infections and tumors as well.

Musculoskeletal low back pain is is one of the most common reasons people seek medical care, and most adults will suffer from this condition at least once in their lifetime, usually between the ages of 20-40 years old.. the low back is made up of muscles, bones, discs, nerves and ligaments and any of these things or in combination can be the cause of discomfort. The most common cause is a muscle strain caused by lifting or moving in a manner that causes muscle injury.

Sometimes more serious diseases can cause the discomfort: cancer, fractures, ruptured discs, and tumors. Its always best to visit with a medical provider and discuss your symptoms so the correct diagnosis can be made in a timely fashion.

Low Back Pain | NEJM

Symptoms of Low Back Pain

  • Dull aching pain
  • Pain that is usually worse with movement
  • Discomfort can radiate down the leg
  • Can be throbbing
  • Can be worse with prolonged sitting and relived with a change in position
  • Pain can occur immediately after an injury or develop slowly

Red Flag Symptoms: symptoms of a potential emergency

  • Back pain associated with fever
  • Loss of sensation in the perineum, buttocks, and genitals
  • Los of control of the bladder or bowels
  • Weakness or numbness in the lower extremities

If any of these red flag symptoms are present, seek medical attention immediately.

How is Low Back Pain Diagnosed?

The diagnosis is made by the provider after they ask you questions, examine your back, and often perform diagnostic imaging like an x-ray, CT Scan, or an MRI. Most forms of back pain don’t require any imaging, however if there are red flag signs or a history of trauma, your provider may choose to order advanced testing. They ask questions like: how and when did it begin to hurt, what makes it better vs worse, has it ever happened before, when is it worse, how severe is the discomfort, etc? The exam will include: Palpation, inspection, range of motion evaluation, and checking strength and reflexes.

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How is Low Back Pain Treated?

Most cases of low back pain are treated symptomatically and resolve over time, anywhere form 2-6 weeks usually. NSAIDS, Tylenol, Heat, and Ice along with exercises and a muscle rub salve can be very beneficial. Sometimes a doctor may prescribe a muscle relaxer and/or a narcotic pain reviler depending upon the situation, but most often not. Physical therapy and home exercises can reduce the time it takes for the pain to resolve. If there are red flags present, that may indicate the need for urgent imaging and neurosurgical evaluation.

How to Prevent Low Back Pain?

Ways to prevent low back pain are:

  • Careful Lifting, bend the knees and avoid heavy weight and multiple replications
  • Low back Exercises
  • Strengthening core muscles
  • Stretch the hamstrings
  • Get up from sitting frequently
  • Achieve an ideal body weight
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