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Lower back pain, also called lumbago, is not a disorder. It’s a symptom of several different types of medical problems. It usually results from a problem with one or more parts of the lower back, such as:
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Other problems may occur along with low back pain. Chronic low back pain is associated with sleep problems, including a greater amount of time needed to fall asleep, disturbances during sleep, a shorter duration of sleep, and less satisfaction with sleep. In addition, a majority of those with chronic low back pain show symptoms of depression or anxiety.
Emerging technologies such as X-rays gave physicians new diagnostic tools, revealing the intervertebral disc as a source for back pain in some cases. In 1938, orthopedic surgeon Joseph S. Barr reported on cases of disc-related sciatica improved or cured with back surgery. As a result of this work, in the 1940s, the vertebral disc model of low back pain took over, dominating the literature through the 1980s, aiding further by the rise of new imaging technologies such as CT and MRI. The discussion subsided as research showed disc problems to be a relatively uncommon cause of the pain. Since then, physicians have come to realize that it is unlikely that a specific cause for low back pain can be identified in many cases and question the need to find one at all as most of the time symptoms resolve within 6 to 12 weeks regardless of treatment.
Although back pain is does not typically cause permanent disability, it is a significant contributor to physician visits and missed work days in the United States, and is the single leading cause of disability worldwide. The American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons report approximately 12 million visits to doctor’s offices each year are due to back pain. Missed work and disability related to low back pain costs over $50 billion each year in the United States. In the United Kingdom in 1998, approximately £1.6 billion per year was spent on expenses related to disability from back pain.
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One thing that is certain? An awful lot of people gain weight as they age. Smart eating combined with regular exercise will help keep you fit and energetic. It just may not prevent lower back pain if you happen to be prone to it.
Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) uses a magnetic force instead of radiation to create a computer-generated image. Unlike x-ray, which shows only bony structures, MRI scans also produce images of soft tissues such as muscles, ligaments, tendons, and blood vessels. An MRI may be ordered if a problem such as infection, tumor, inflammation, disc herniation or rupture, or pressure on a nerve is suspected. MRI is a noninvasive way to identify a condition requiring prompt surgical treatment. However, in most instances, unless there are “red flags” in the history or physical exam, an MRI scan is not necessary the early phases of low back pain.
New research finds that a yoga class designed specifically for back pain can be as effective as physical therapy in relieving pain. The yoga protocol includes gentle poses and avoids more difficult ones. Comstock Images/Getty Images hide caption
Ibuprofen (Advil, Nuprin, or Motrin), available over the counter, is an excellent medication for the short-term treatment of low back pain. Because of the risk of ulcers and gastrointestinal bleeding, talk with your doctor about using this medication for a long time.
^ a b c d e Use of imaging studies for low back pain: percentage of members with a primary diagnosis of low back pain who did not have an imaging study (plain x-ray, MRI, CT scan) within 28 days of the diagnosis. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality. 2013. Archived from the original on 4 October 2013. Retrieved 11 June 2013.