Diagnosing Lower Back Pain

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Treatment & Diagnosing Lower Back Pain

Back pain will inhibit millions of Americans this year, and for some, the pain can be excruciating. Back pain can be caused by a large number of injuries or conditions. Thus making a proper diagnosis both difficult and critical. Back pain that occurs with other symptoms like fever and chills.

Treatment & Diagnosing Lower Back Pain
Treatment & Diagnosing Lower Back Pain

Severe abdominal pain or bladder and bowel problems can be an indication of a serious medical condition. Should be evaluated by your doctor immediately.

Lower back pain is classified into one of three categories. Based on a description of how the pain is distributed throughout the body.

These three categories are axial lower back pain (also known as mechanical or simple back pain), radicular lower back pain (also known as sciatica) and lower back pain with referred pain. We will now briefly examine the most common causes and treatments for each of these categories.

The most common type of lower back pain is axial. This pain is confined to the lower back area and does not radiate into the surrounding portions of the body. There are many causes of axial lower back pain. Such as a degenerated disc or damage to the muscles, ligaments or tendons.

However, in most cases, the treatment of axial lower back pain is not dependant on the cause.

The usual treatment is rest, exercises or physical therapy. The use of hot and/or cold compresses and various common pain medications. The exceptions to this would be for chronic pain or pain that is so severe that it wakes you up at night. In these cases, one should see their doctor.

Radicular lower back pain is caused by compression of the lower spinal nerve. Leading to pain that radiates down the thighs and legs. The most common nerve affected is the sciatic nerve. Which runs down the back of the thigh and calf into the food.

Sciatica may cause greater pain in the leg than in the back. This nerve compression can be caused by a herniated disc, a narrowing of the passage through which the nerve travels the spine, diabetes or nerve root injuries.

Usually sciatica is treated with physical therapy and medication for a period of six to eight weeks. If the pain persists, surgery may be done to relieve the compression.

Lower back pain with referred pain which spreads to other areas of the body can be caused by the same conditions which cause axial lower back pain, and the treatment is similar. It needs to be carefully differentiated from radicular lower back pain, in which the pain spreads in very specific paths along certain nerves.

Most instances of back pain can be treated successfully with a combination of rest, physical therapy, hot and cold packs and pain medication. Only with severe or persistent pain should a more drastic treatment, such as surgery, be considered.

How to Prevent Back Pain-  Treatment & Diagnosing Lower Back Pain

Simple lower back pain can be caused by straining the muscles, tendon or ligaments of the lower back. Often this is a result of heavy or awkward activity, especially if you are unused to it. Here are some tips to help prevent you from injuring your back, and becoming one of the millions of Americans who suffer from lower back pain.

The most effective prevention is to take care as to how you lift heavy objects. Do not try to lift any significant weight by bending over the object. You should bend your knees and then lift with your legs. Try to keep your back straight and hold the object close to your body. It is important to avoid twisting your body while lifting, which is the most common cause of a slipped disk.

When moving heavy objects, pushing is less stressful than pulling.

Routine activities, such as housework or gardening, can cause back pain. Try to avoid standing flat-footed while bent over. Placing one foot on a small stool or book while washing dishes or ironing can reduce the strain on your back. When vacuuming, try to move your whole body, using your legs to push.

A sedentary lifestyle will contribute to back problems.

Regular exercise will have great benefit to you. You should consider a set of stretching and other exercises to improve the flexibility and strength of the muscles which support your lower back. These include the abdominal muscles, as well as those in the legs and back. Simple exercises like partial sit-ups and bridges can help prevent back pain throughout your life.

Obesity is a common cause of back pain. Aerobic exercise can help manage weight concerns. Swimming, jogging or even walking are all activities that will help you lose weight and feel better. Before starting any vigorous activity, make sure you do a proper warm-up with stretching.

In addition to exercise, a proper diet is essential in managing your weight. However, there are also two nutrients, calcium and vitamin D, that help build healthy and strong bones and prevent osteoporosis, which can cause bone fractures that lead to back pain.

Many people whose jobs involve sitting for long periods of time experience back pain. It is important to get up and move around regularly. If driving for long periods of time, take the time to stop and get out of your vehicle.

Stretching your muscles and improving blood flow to your lower body will help prevent back pain, as well as help keep you alert for the rest of your trip.

Changing the position in which you sleep can also help prevent back pain. The best positions are either to sleep lying on your side with your legs bent, or lying on your back with a pillow under your knees. A firm mattress is usually the best bet. A sheet of plywood can be placed between the box spring and the mattress in order to increase the firmness of your bed.

Living with Back Pain- Diagnosing Lower Back Pain

Back pain may be relieved with a variety of techniques.

For most common occurrences of back pain, a regiment of rest, hot and cold compresses, exercise and therapy, as well as various pain medications can be used to reduce the pain and provide a level of comfort.

Rest will be necessary for your back to heal when suffering from acute back pain. However, you should try to maintain as much activity as is comfortable. Getting up and moving around can help ease stiffness and relieve pain.

Hot and cold compresses, used separately or by alternating, can have great benefit in reducing back pain. Heat is used to relax the muscles. It works by dilating the blood vessels, which improves the flow of oxygen to the affected area and reduces pain and muscle spasms.

It is important to take care when applying heat to the lower back region. Constant heat for prolonged periods can have a negative effect on the organs in your abdominal region. Do not sleep with a heating pad on your back. Instead, apply heat for no more than 20 to 30 minutes. Cold packs are used to reduce inflammation, such as that from arthritis or injury.

This works by decreasing the size of blood vessels and the flow of blood to the area. Like heat packs, it is important to avoid prolonged application of cold packs.

A simple solution for a cold pack is to take a bag of ice or frozen peas and wrap it in a towel.

Various stretching exercises can be used to reduce back pain by reducing back stiffness and possibly relieving compression on the spine. As well, suitable exercises will strengthen the muscles of the abdomen, buttocks, back and legs, which will provide better support to your back and help relieve pain.

Your doctor or physical therapist can show you a set of exercises suitable for your condition. Massage therapy is used by many to relieve back pain. Massage tries to stimulate blood flow to the affected area, and to relax the muscles of the lower back. Registered massage therapists can be found on-line or in your phone book.

Nonprescription medicines can be used to reduce pain.

They include analgesic medications like aspirin and acetaminophen (Tylenol), which are meant for general pain relief. Topical analgesics include such as Zostrix, Icy Hot and Ben Gay can be effective in some cases where a pill-based medicine is not.

Other medicines, such as NSAIDs, or non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, are used to reduce swelling. These include such nonprescription medications as ibuprofen (Motrin, Advil), ketoprofen (Actron, Orudis) and naproxen sodium (Aleve). Prescription medications are available if these medications do not prove effective.

You should call your family doctor if your pain remains after a couple of weeks, or if you feel any of these other symptoms:

  • Pain in your leg below the knee
  • Numbness in the legs or groin
  • Fever, nausea or vomiting, stomach pain, weakness or sweating
  • Loss of control over bathroom functions

Risk Factors for Back Pain- Treatment & Diagnosing Lower Back Pain

It is estimated that 80% of all Americans will experience back pain in their lives. This means that it is likely you will suffer from back pain eventually. There are several risk factors that can contribute to the frequency and intensity back pain episodes. By being aware of them, you can modify your behavior to reduce your risk of suffering from back pain.

The most common age to first experience back pain is between 30 and 40. At this time the body is beginning to lose its flexibility. Back pain becomes more common with age, as the number of conditions that can cause back pain increase.

Musculoskeletal strains are more common with younger people, while arthritis and degenerative disc disease tend to be leading causes of back pain among seniors.

People who live sedentary lifestyles are more likely to experience back pain than those who engage in regular activity. Those with a higher level of physical fitness generally have stronger muscles in the back, legs and abdomen, all of which help support the back.

The exception to this is the so-called “Weekend Warriors”, people who engage in vigorous activity only periodically, with little exercise in between.

They are at the greatest risk of injuring themselves during their periods of exertion. Those who are least likely to suffer from back pain are those who engage in a moderate level of activity on a regular basis.

Perhaps the most significant risk factor is obesity. The strain of carrying excess weight can contribute greatly to back pain. Regular exercise and a balanced diet can help control obesity, and reduce the frequency of back pain episodes.

Having a job that requires heavy lifting, particularly while twisting or vibrating the spine, can lead to injury and back pain. It is important that if your job involves heavy lifting, pushing or pulling, you should make the effort to use proper techniques in order to protect your back.

Bend your knees and lift with your legs, keeping your back straight. Before starting your day, consider doing a series of stretching and strengthening exercises to loosen your back muscles and help prepare them for the work ahead.

A desk job may also lead to back pain, particularly if you sit all day in an uncomfortable chair or have bad posture.

Try to sit straight with your feet firmly planted on the ground. Make sure your computer monitor is at the correct height, which is usually recommended to be that the top on the monitor is two inches above your eye level. Stretching activities done throughout the day can help to keep your back loose.

Although smoking may not directly cause back pain, it increases your risk of developing low back pain sciatica. Smoking may lead to pain by blocking your body’s ability to deliver nutrients to the discs of the lower back.

Exercising and Back Pain- Treatment & Diagnosing Lower Back Pain

Exercising is of great benefit both to someone suffering from back pain and for anyone hoping to avoid it in the future. If you are suffering from acute back pain, exercising may not be possible or even a good idea.

However, for chronic back pain, a regular exercise program will probably be recommended by your doctor. Either your physician or a physical therapist can help you in developing an exercise plan that is suitable for you and your condition. You will want to include the following types of exercises.

Stretching exercises are designed to improve the extension of the muscles and soft tissues. This can reduce stiffness and increase range of motion. Typical stretching exercises for the back include lying on your back and raising each leg to your chest, as well as bridges and hamstring stretches.

The purposes of flexion exercises, which are exercises in which you bend forward, are to widen the spaces between the vertebrae. This relieves pressure on the nerves, and stretches the muscles of the back and hips.

They will also strengthen the muscles that support the spine, those of the back, abdomen and legs

With extension exercises, you bend backward. They open up the spinal canal in places and develop muscles that support the spine. Extension exercises may minimize radicular pain, which is pain that radiates to other parts of the body besides the back, especially the legs and lower extremities. Extension exercises include leg lifts and trunk raises.

Aerobic exercise is the type that gets your heart rate elevated for a period of time. It is also known as cardiovascular exercise. It is recommended to get at least 30 minutes of aerobic exercise three times a week. Aerobic exercises are good for working the large muscles of the back and core. For those with back problems, walking, jogging and swimming may be suitable aerobic activities.

For back problems, you should avoid exercise that requires twisting or vigorous bending, like aerobics and rowing, as well as contact sports like football or hockey, because these activities may cause more damage to your back.

Especially avoid high-impact activities if you have any sort of disc disease. If back pain or your fitness level makes it impossible to exercise 30 minutes at a time. Try three 10-minute sessions to start with and work up to your goal.

Obesity is a common cause of back pain. The strain of carrying excess weight can contribute greatly to back pain. Regular exercise and a balanced diet can help control obesity. Reduce the frequency of back pain episodes. Aerobic exercise can help manage weight concerns. Swimming, jogging or even walking are all activities that will help you lose weight and feel better.

If you suffer from back pain, it is important to make sure that you are doing the right exercises. That you are doing them properly. A physical therapist can help you develop proper techniques so that you can derive the maximum benefit for your exercise and avoid injuring yourself further.

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