Lower back pain

Lower back pain

Get treated: Do not pop pills or do exercises you found on the Internet. You may aggravate the problem, warns Dr Shankar Acharya

Lower back pain
In most cases, lower back pain isn’t given attention until the patient bends down to pick something up or stretches their arms upwards to catch something. Chronic back pain interferes with your work, daily activities, recreation, and exercise.

A study suggests that the condition should be treated at an early stage because in most cases, it slowly progresses into acute pain. Due to lack of awareness, most  people do not visit a doctor and choose to self-medicate.

Depending on the symptoms and severity, lower back pain is divided into three types:

  • Acute - Pain lasts > 6 weeks
  • Sub-chronic - Pain lasts 6 -12 weeks
  • Chronic - Pain lasts

Lower back pain can be caused by many underlying problems of varying levels of severity. While in most cases, the cause is unclear, it is believed to be the result of non-serious muscle or skeletal issues such as sprains or strains.

Usually, the pain develops after movements that involve lifting, twisting or forward-bending. You may feel it soon after the movement or when you wake up the next morning. The severity of the pain may fall anywhere on a scale of mild to extreme. But if you leave it untreated for a  long period of time, it is likely to escalate into severe pain.

Lower back pain can be managed by having a clear understanding of three main points: why it occurs, how it occurs and when it occurs. Specific causes account for less than 20% of the cases of back pain, hence the probability that a particular case of low back pain has a specific cause is low.

A minority of cases result from physical causes: trauma caused by a vehicular crash among young people or osteoporosis among older people, etc. Non-specific causes account for a much greater percentage of these cases.

The problem may manifest itself in the following ways: inability to stand straight, pain down the legs, fever, constant back pain, numbness in lower parts of the body.

Anxiety, lack of exercise, sedentary job, smoking, obesity, poor sleep, strain and ageing are common risk factors.

What to do?

Many people try to look for symptoms and treatment on the internet. They then either resort to unsuitable exercises or take pain killers without consulting with a doctor. This may aggravate the condition. Here is what you can do to relieve pain in a safe way:

  • Move and stretch gently
  • Get proper pain medication after consulting with your doctor
  • Pool therapy – exercise under water
  • Sit in a reclining chair to relieve pressure on the lower back
  • Use heat and cold packs to reduce inflammation

If the pain is abnormally high, make no delay in visiting your doctor. Persistent pain can make you cranky, anxious and even keep you away from work. Do not self-medicate or suffer in silence.

(The author is orthopaedic & spine surgeon, Sir Gangaram Hospital, Delhi)