Safeguarding Your Lower Back: Tips for Managing Pain After Physical Activity

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The back is a complex structure comprising the spine, spinal cord, muscles, ligaments, and nerves, serving to support the body, facilitate movement, and transmit neural messages. Back-related conditions and injuries span a spectrum from mild discomfort to severe impairments, with mild issues causing aches, pain, or reduced mobility, while severe ones can disrupt broader bodily functions. Treatment approaches for back problems are tailored to the condition’s severity and may include physical therapy, medications, or surgical interventions, aiming to alleviate pain and restore functionality.

Causes & Sources of Lower Back Pain

Lower back pain can have various causes, which can be broadly categorized as either traumatic or non-traumatic. Traumatic lower back pain may result from accidents causing fractures or dislocations in the spine. On the other hand, non-traumatic lower back pain is often associated with factors like bad posture, which can exert excessive pressure on the spine, leading to changes in its structure, muscle and joint strain, and nerve damage. Examples of bad posture include slumping in a chair, putting pressure on the stomach while lying down, or walking in a hunched manner. Correcting posture during activities like sitting, standing, or walking can help alleviate spinal pressure and prevent lower back pain. Additionally, lifting heavy objects incorrectly or unsafely can also contribute to non-traumatic lower back pain.


Back pain typically arises from a combination of three primary sources. Muscular back pain stems from the overexertion or strain of the lower back muscles, resulting in sensations of aching and cramping. Discal pain is associated with the intervertebral discs positioned between spinal bones; a tear in the outer fibers (annulus fibrosus) can trigger sharp pain and elevate the risk of disc protrusion. Facet joint pain, on the other hand, originates from the spinal facet joints, which may deteriorate over time, causing both back pain and discomfort in the buttock area. Understanding these origins is essential for the diagnosis and effective management of back pain.

Conditions Associated with Lower Back Pain

Various conditions can lead to lower back pain, with each having its distinct characteristics and causes:

  1. A slipped disc, for instance, happens when the gel-like inner portion of a spinal disc pushes through a tear in the tough outer portion, sometimes requiring surgery for severe cases.
  2. Spondylosis encompasses spinal degeneration in joints, discs, and bones, including conditions like degenerative disc disease and osteophytes (bone spurs).
  3. Facet joint arthritis arises from the breakdown of cartilage in the facet joints of the spine.
  4. Spinal stenosis involves narrowing of the spinal canal, causing pressure on nerves and pain.
  5. Spondylolisthesis and spondylolysis involve misalignment and fractures of spinal segments, often causing nerve-related symptoms.
  6. Spinal infections and tumors, though rare, can lead to severe complications, with symptoms ranging from persistent lower back pain to deformities and neurological issues, depending on the case.


Experiencing Back Pain After Physical Activity

It’s normal to feel tightness and soreness in your lower back after a workout, especially if you’ve been targeting those muscles with exercises like squats, deadlifts, or yoga. This is your body’s natural response to exercise. It is commonly felt several days after the workout. Even so, you should keep track of these symptoms. However, if your lower back pain persists for an extended period or is accompanied by severe symptoms, it’s crucial to seek medical attention for a thorough evaluation and appropriate treatment.

When To Seek Medical Intervention for Back Pain After Physical Activity

Back pain can manifest through various symptoms that often signal underlying issues in the spine. Buttock pain, frequently associated with back pain, can result from worn-out facet joints in the spine, indicating referred pain due to shared nerves with the back. Shooting pain down the leg is commonly caused by the narrowing of nerve passages in the spine, typically due to disc damage or facet joint osteoarthritis. This condition, known as sciatica or radicular pain, presents as electric or lightning-like pain down the back of the leg. Additionally, back-related nerve compression can lead to leg or foot numbness and weakness, sometimes to the extent of foot-drop or severe numbness. Leg cramps, occurring after walking, can result from severe spinal canal narrowing. Other symptoms may include tingling, burning, or insect crawling sensations, indicating nerve pinching (paraesthesia), and in severe cases, loss of bowel and bladder control due to disc prolapse pressing on controlling nerves. If any of these symptoms persist without improvement, it’s crucial to schedule an appointment with an orthopedic surgeon for a thorough evaluation and appropriate treatment.


Preventing Lower Back Pain After a Workout

Exercise safety is crucial for maximizing the benefits of a fitness routine. You can always consult an orthopaedic surgeon before beginning a new exercise program, especially if it’s strenuous, considering factors like age, health history, and personal fitness levels. Proper measures include moderation, regularity, wearing appropriate gear, staying hydrated, and incorporating warm-up and cool-down routines to ensure a safe transition in and out of physical activity. By following these precautions, you can prevent lower back pain after workouts:

  1. Ensuring proper form and posture, maintaining a straight back, and aligning the neck, shoulders, and knees can significantly reduce the risk of accidents or injuries.
  2. Slowly progressing from low-impact to high-impact exercises helps prevent overexertion and strain.
  3. Incorporating comprehensive warm-up and cool-down exercises aids in reducing discomfort, soreness, and inflammation.
  4. Engaging in core-strengthening exercises can enhance muscle flexibility and blood flow.
  5. Avoid exercises that are too strenuous that may hurt the spine and other body parts.
  6. Aside from exercise, adequate rest and recovery and engaging in low-impact activities like yoga and brisk walking promote healing and reduce pain.


Surgical and Nonsurgical Treatments to Address Lower Back Pain

Treatment options for back pain can vary widely depending on individual factors such as age, lifestyle, and the presence of pre-existing conditions. These treatments may encompass medications to alleviate pain in the back, buttock, and leg areas, along with lifestyle modifications to better manage back pain. Physiotherapy focusing on back and core muscle strengthening can enhance function and provide relief from pain. In cases where there are underlying causes of back pain, pain procedures may be recommended. Surgery may also be considered to release pinched nerves and stabilize worn-out spines. Ultimately, the choice of treatment will be tailored to your specific circumstances and needs.


What are the early warning signs of lower back pain?

Early warning signs of moderate to severe lower back pain may include sharp pain, localized tenderness, muscle spasms, and limited mobility.

How can I reduce my risk of suffering from a lower back pain?

To reduce the risk of suffering from a lower back pain, it’s important to maintain good posture, practice proper lifting techniques, engage in regular core-strengthening exercises, and avoid overexertion during physical activities.

Is surgical treatment an option for treating a torn lower back muscle?

Surgical treatment is not typically the first option for treating a torn lower back muscle; conservative approaches like rest, physical therapy, and medication are usually explored first. Consult with an orthopaedic surgeon to properly discuss an optimal treatment for you.

Are there any lifestyle changes that might help prevent reoccurring issues with my lower back?

Lifestyle changes that can help prevent recurring issues include maintaining a healthy weight, staying active, using ergonomic support, wearing comfortable shoes, and practicing stress management techniques.

When is it time to see specialist such as an orthopaedic surgeon or pain management doctor for this condition?

It’s time to see a specialist such as an orthopedic surgeon or pain management doctor for a torn lower back muscle when conservative treatments fail to provide relief, and the pain becomes chronic or severely limiting your daily activities.



Dr Yong Ren’s Profile

Dr Yong Ren graduated from the National University of Singapore’s Medical faculty and embarked on his orthopaedic career soon after. Upon completion of his training locally, he served briefly as an orthopaedic trauma surgeon in Khoo Teck Puat hospital before embarking on sub-specialty training in Switzerland at the famed Inselspital in Bern.

He underwent sub-specialty training in pelvic and spinal surgery, and upon his return to Singapore served as head of the orthopaedic trauma team till 2019. He continues to serve as Visiting Consultant to Khoo Teck Puat Hospital.

Well versed in a variety of orthopaedic surgeries, he also served as a member of the country council for the local branch of the Arbeitsgemeinschaft für Osteosynthesefragen (Trauma) in Singapore. He was also involved in the training of many of the young doctors in Singapore and was appointed as an Assistant Professor by the Yong Loo Lin School of Medicine. Prior to his entry into the private sector, he also served as core faculty for orthopaedic resident training by the National Healthcare Group.

Dr Yong Ren brings to the table his years of experience as a teacher and trainer in orthopaedic surgery. With his expertise in minimally invasive fracture surgery, pelvic reconstructive surgery, hip and knee surgery as well as spinal surgery, he is uniquely equipped with the tools and expertise necessary to help you on your road to recovery.

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Sarah Taylor

Obstetrics & Gynaecology