Lower back pain – Symptoms, causes, and treatment

Last modified: December 11, 2019

Many people suffer from different types of back pain. Primarily the lumbar region, i.e. the lower part of the back, is often affected by various problems. The reason for this is that the lumbar region undergoes greater strain than the cervical spine and thoracic spine. This means that both joints, discs and muscles are affected by strain-related complaints. There may be several causes for pain in the spine. If the pain does not subside on its own, help should be sought.

Back pain could also be caused by osteoarthritis.

Common symptoms

Many people apparently have pain in their back, but they can have pain in different ways. For example, it is common to have an intense, nagging pain. Sharp and piercing pain can also develop. It isn’t uncommon for the pain to radiate down into the hips or legs, which can make it difficult to move. Obviously, this can affect a person’s quality of life to a great degree. Above all, everyday activities can be difficult if the pain continues for a long period of time.

Causes – work posture and injuries

How the lumbar pain develops and arises may depend on the working postures of the person affected. A job with a lot of heavy lifting, where the spine can easily end up in a twisted or vulnerable position, can be a contributing factor. Sedentary jobs can also involve risks. This applies in particular if you sit in a sunken position and do not vary your work position.

If you have pain in the lumbar region after a fall or another type of traumatic injury, it is important to seek medical attention as soon as possible. Signs of more serious conditions include if the pain in the lumbar region is accompanied by impaired nerves at the same time. For example, this can be expressed in disturbed sensitivity in the leg and lower abdominal region or loss of control of the intestines or bladder, so-called cauda equina effect.

Figure out why you have lumbar pain

People who have had back pain over a longer period of time would be wise to visit a physician to get a diagnosis. You should describe your symptoms extensively during the visit with the physician. For example, you should explain how and when the pain began and when you have pain in the lumbar region. You should also indicate whether the pain is radiating down into the legs and whether there is any effect on the nerve.

The physician usually examines the spine and nerve function in the legs and makes a preliminary diagnosis. Sometimes, a magnetic resonance imaging exam, MRI, is performed to investigate the patient’s discomfort. This is done if the pain has been going on for a long period of time, is highly pronounced, or if the nerves in the legs are affected. In this phase, you can also get a referral for further treatment from a physiotherapist, for example.

Treatment

If the lumbar pain is caused by a strained muscle, also called lumbago, the best thing to do is to continue moving as much as the pain allows and wait for the condition to pass. This is because muscle pain often heals itself. Excessive rest often means that it takes longer to improve. A person with lumbar pain should avoid lifting heavy loads or twisting the back sideways. Pain-relief in the form of a heating pad or non-prescription pain medications can provide temporary improvement.

There are also certain types of training exercises that are good for an aching lower back. Visiting a chiropractor, physiotherapist or a naprapath can give the affected person more insight into how to reduce the pain. A customized exercise program, for example, which softens the joints and strengthens the muscles can be created. Physical activity and exercise are often the treatment methods that have shown to provide the best results. Most of the conditions that can cause lower back pain can be remedied with exercise.

Doing exercises at home

A few good back exercises for pain in the lumbar region include back lifts, pelvic lifts, upper and lower body rotation and side bending. The exercises are performed with your own bodyweight and can be easily performed on a mat on the floor in your own home. If the training exercises don’t work, further examination and assessment by an orthopedic physician may be necessary.

Continue reading about back pain during physical activity.