Sunday, July 5, 2009

Pain In The Lower Back: How To Handle It

By Dr. Stefan Tarlow

The lower back has five vertebrae that make up the lumbar bones. These vertebrae are separated by spinal discs that are made of a gel-like substance. These discs are coated with cartilage.

The spinal cord and nerves are contained within the spinal canal, which runs the full length of the spinal column. The lower back takes a lot of stress because it carries the weight of most of the torso. This causes the spine, nerves and muscles to be subject to pain.

Actually, after the flu, low back pain is the most common complaint doctors are presented with. There are a number of causes for back pain. Often, one patient's problems are caused by multiple reasons. However, the most common reasons are injury and trauma. Here is a list of the types of low back pain and their causes:

A muscle injury is a strain.

Sprains are caused by ligament injury.

Sciatica: Pinched nerve.

Sacroiliitis: Inflamed hip joint.

Disc degeneration is caused by disease (such as arthritis).

A herniated disc is caused by pressure.

Sprains and strains may be caused by single or multiple events. Improper lifting may causes a sprain or strain as a single event or cumulatively over a period of time. Obesity and poor posture can cause back pain due to constant pressure and stress.

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After a strain or sprain, it is important to slowly and carefully resume normal activities after a couple of days. Heat and/or cold packs should be applied to the injury. Physical maneuvering of the bones - known as tractions and reduction - may be helpful. Other treatments include electrical stimulation, massage therapy, and ultrasound. Additionally, injections of corticosteroids or local anesthetics may provide temporary relief of pain.

Anytime you have back pain, one of the best ways to alleviate it is through conditioning and strengthening the muscles of the lower back. This can be done by using specific exercises recommended by your health care professional and by adding aerobic conditioning to your daily activities.

If you have tried all of the non-surgical options without relief, you may wish to consider surgery. Spinal fusion is the most common back surgery. It works by limiting the movement in the most painful area of your back.

It is important to note that recovery can be a lengthy and uncertain process. It often takes over a year to know whether or not the surgery has been successful. This is simply determined by whether or not the pain has abated. Complete relief from pain is unusual. Still, this is an option worth discussing with your doctor; although, you may well find that it is not the best option for you.

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