What causes low back pain?
Lower back pain is very common and one of the main reasons for sickness absence in the United Kingdom. Acute lower back pain is defined as moderate to severe pain that is present for 6 weeks or less, in most cases the pain lasts between 3 days to six weeks . The complex anatomical structure of the low back means that even a small injury to any of the structures of the back can result in a lot of pain. Pain in the lower back is usually a symptom of fatigue or damage to the ligaments, muscles, tendons or discs. Pain may be localised to the back or may refer to the buttocks and leg. Injury to any of these structures is classified as “mechanical lower back pain”, and can be caused from excessive mechanical stress, fatigue, repetitive strain or trauma.
Acute lower back pain can however also be a result of less common but more serious secondary causes that include metabolic diseases, inflammatory rheumatic disorders, and referred pain from other parts of the body. An early and accurate diagnosis is very important to identify the cause of pain and rule out any serous pathology. Therefore an early visit to an osteopath or other allied healthcare professional is essential to ensure a full medical history, physical examination and an accurate diagnosis is provided.
What treatment can I receive for back pain?
Early intervention with lower back pain is essential as it has been shown in many studies, that the longer an individual remains inactive and off work due to pain, the harder it is for them to return and the less likely it is that they will. The following are recommendations regarding the treatment and management of low back pain:
- It has been shown in many clinical studies that manual therapy such as osteopathy is effective at reducing pain, increasing mobility and speeding up recovery. It is recomdended by NICE that patient seek such treatment.
- It is repeatedly reported that bed rest does not promote recovery from mechanical low back pain.
- Sitting for long periods of time is not recommended.
- It is important that you continue with normal activities wherever possible, including return to wor.
- Pain killers (e.g. paracetamol) and anti inflammatory drugs (e.g. ibuprofen) have been shown to help with symptomatic relief, but it is important to consult the GP before taking them
- A muscle relaxant may be prescribed but only for a few days, once again consult your GP before taking them.
- Exercises are recommended to increase flexibility and strengthen the muscles.
For more details about specific conditions, check out:
- Facet joint strain
- Sacroiliac joint strain
- Bulging disc / slipped disc / prolapsed disc / herniated disc
- Kyphosis, lordosis and scoliosis
- Osteoporosis, spondylosis and spondyloarthrosis
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