Back pain can interrupt your day or interfere with your plans. In fact, there’s an 84 percent chance that you develop low back pain in your lifetime. But back pain isn’t always something you can ignore or wait for it to resolve on its own. Thankfully, there are several ways to treat back pain at home. These remedies include everything from herbs to massages. Keep reading to see how you can ease your back pain.
Biomechanical factors of pregnancy shown to be associated with back pain include increased curvature of the lower back, or lumbar lordosis, to support the added weight on the abdomen. Also, a hormone called relaxin is released during pregnancy that softens the structural tissues in the pelvis and lower back to prepare for vaginal delivery. This softening and increased flexibility of the ligaments and joints in the lower back can result in pain. Back pain in pregnancy is often accompanied by radicular symptoms, suggested to be caused by the fetus pressing on the sacral plexus and lumbar plexus in the pelvis.
Resting is helpful, but should not usually last more than a couple of days. Too much rest may actually be counterproductive by allowing muscles to weaken, which can lead to further episodes of back pain in the future.
As a person ages, the discs in one’s back naturally dry up, especially when a person isn’t active, and our lifestyles have only become more sedentary and sitting-focused, complicating matters tremendously. A meta-study published in the British Medical Journal found lower back pain to the be the number one cause of disability worldwide, affecting 83 million people globally.
Body weight – the amount of weight people carry, as well as where they carry it, affects the risk of developing back pain. The difference in back pain risk between obese and normal-weight individuals is considerable. People who carry their weight in the abdominal area versus the buttocks and hip area are also at greater risk.
Hot and Cold Therapy: Many people seek immediate relief from severe back pain, by placing a hot water bag on the area. This normally gets rid of the pain within a short while. It has been seen that applying an ice pack on the back can also bring about the same results.
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The discs are pads that serve as cushions between the individual vertebral bodies. They help to minimize the impact of stress forces on the spinal column. Each disc is designed like a jelly donut with a central, softer component (nucleus pulposus) and a surrounding, firm outer ring (annulus fibrosus). The central portion of the disc is capable of rupturing (herniating as in a herniated disc) through the outer ring, causing irritation of adjacent nervous tissue and sciatica as described below. Ligaments are strong fibrous soft tissues that firmly attach bones to bones. Ligaments attach each of the vertebrae to each other and surround each of the discs.
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Complaints of low back pain are one of the most common reasons people visit doctors. For pain that has lasted only a few weeks, the pain is likely to subside on its own. Thus, if a person’s medical history and physical examination do not suggest a specific disease as the cause, medical societies advise against imaging tests such as X-rays, CT scans, and MRIs. Individuals may want such tests but, unless red flags are present, they are unnecessary health care. Routine imaging increases costs, is associated with higher rates of surgery with no overall benefit, and the radiation used may be harmful to one’s health. Fewer than 1% of imaging tests identify the cause of the problem. Imaging may also detect harmless abnormalities, encouraging people to request further unnecessary testing or to worry. Even so, MRI scans of the lumbar region increased by more than 300% among United States Medicare beneficiaries from 1994 to 2006.
^ a b c d e f Qaseem, A; Wilt, TJ; McLean, RM; Forciea, MA; Clinical Guidelines Committee of the American College of, Physicians. (4 April 2017). Noninvasive Treatments for Acute, Subacute, and Chronic Low Back Pain: A Clinical Practice Guideline From the American College of Physicians. Annals of Internal Medicine. 166 (7): 514–530. doi:10.7326/M16-2367. PMID 28192789.
One important caveat: no one solution for chronic low back pain works well for everyone. Instead most treatments studied—whether pills, push-ups or acupuncture—help some people cope with their pain but fail to help others.
^ Carragee EJ, Alamin TF, Miller JL, Carragee JM (2005). Discographic, MRI and psychosocial determinants of low back pain disability and remission: a prospective study in subjects with benign persistent back pain. The Spine Journal. 5 (1): 24–35. doi:10.1016/j.spinee.2004.05.250. PMID 15653082.
Physician specialties that evaluate and treat low back pain range from generalists to subspecialists.These specialties include emergency medicine physicians, general medicine, family medicine, internal medicine, gynecology, spine surgeons (orthopaedics and neurosurgery), rheumatology, pain management, and physiatry. Other health care providers for low back pain include physical therapists, chiropractors, massage therapists, psychologists, and acupuncturists.
Regardless of which portion of the lumbar is effected, having a good lumbar support can help prevent these issues. For these reasons, a good lumbar support needs to be designed properly. It must fit the shape of your spine so that the support is flush against the small of your back. It must also provide support without putting unwanted pressure on any muscle groups or vertebrae.
Vergara M, Page A, Sancho JL. Analysis of lumbar flexion in sitting posture: location of lumbar vertebrae with relation to easily identifiable skin marks. Int J Ind Ergonom. 2006;36:937–942. doi: 10.1016/j.ergon.2006.07.006. [Cross Ref]
Strained muscles and ligaments often cause back pain. Strain commonly occurs with incorrect lifting of heavy objects and sudden awkward movements. Strain can also result from over-activity. An example is the sore feeling and stiffness that occurs after a few hours of yard work or playing a sport.
I would even go as far as suggesting that proper posture and exercise education should be a part of our school education. We learn all kinds of nonsense in the school, so why not learn how to live a healthier and better life…?
THE TAKEAWAY: You are not doomed by your MRI. Many people with abnormal results are pain free. According to a 2009 research review published in The Lancet, clinicians should refrain from routine, immediate lumbar imaging in patients with LBP without features suggesting a serious underlying condition. For you, that means asking your doctor about what other diagnostic avenues he or she will use besides an MRI. Especially if you’re hearing about your MRI results and the word “surgery” comes up.
Exercise – regular exercise helps build strength as well as keeping your body weight down. Experts say that low-impact aerobic activities are best; activities that do not strain or jerk the back. Before starting any exercise program, talk to a health care professional.
^ a b c Furlan, Andrea D.; Giraldo, Mario; Baskwill, Amanda; Irvin, Emma; Imamura, Marta (2015-09-01). Massage for low-back pain. The Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews (9): CD001929. doi:10.1002/14651858.CD001929.pub3. ISSN 1469-493X. PMID 26329399.
Bone scan – a bone scan may be used for detecting bone tumors or compression fractures caused by brittle bones (osteoporosis). The patient receives an injection of a tracer (a radioactive substance) into a vein. The tracer collects in the bones and helps the doctor detect bone problems with the aid of a special camera.
In a pinch, an easy way to add lumbar support is to roll a towel up and place it behind your back. You can use it in bed, in a sitting position, and even in your car. Depending on the amount of lumbar support you want, you can adjust the thickness of the roll by using small or large towel.
X-ray is often the first imaging technique used to look for broken bones or an injured vertebra. X-rays show the bony structures and any vertebral misalignment or fractures. Soft tissues such as muscles, ligaments, or bulging discs are not visible on conventional x-rays.
A surprising 2012 study in The Spine Journal found that cumulative or repetitive loading with higher-than-normal body mass (nearly 30 pounds on average) was not harmful to the subjects’ lumbar discs. In fact, a slight delay in L1-L4 disc degeneration was observed in the heavier men, as compared with their slimmer counterparts.
^ Dubinsky, R. M.; Miyasaki, J. (2009). Assessment: Efficacy of transcutaneous electric nerve stimulation in the treatment of pain in neurologic disorders (an evidence-based review): Report of the Therapeutics and Technology Assessment Subcommittee of the American Academy of Neurology. Neurology. 74 (2): 173–6. doi:10.1212/WNL.0b013e3181c918fc. PMID 20042705.