Lower back pain is something that many of us have experienced and can disrupt our daily lives. But worry not, you can do something about it. In this guide, we will look into the causes, symptoms, and treatments to lower back pain for lower back pain relief.
The lower back refers to the area of the spine that lies between the ribs and the upper portion of the buttocks. This region usually has an arch shape, referred to as lordosis, which assists in distributing the weight of the upper body to the legs and reducing the strain on the bottom part of the spine. Any issue with the lower back can lead to changes in lordosis, resulting in lower back pain.
The lower back consists of five vertebrae that are stacked on top of each other with intervertebral discs separating them. These bones are connected on the posterior side with specialized joints. Think of your spine like a stack of building blocks. As we grow, these blocks, also known as vertebrae, get bigger to better support our bodies. Now, in between these blocks, you’ve got something like little cushions called discs. They’re there to provide some extra padding and help absorb shocks, kind of like how a cushioned seat makes a hard chair more comfortable. Behind the vertebrae, paired facet joints are connected, allowing movement in multiple directions. On the surfaces of these joints, cartilage is present, allowing for smooth movement. Think of your spine like a stack of Lego blocks. The upper lumbar vertebrae have facets (sort of like Lego connectors) that let them move forward and backward, just like bending forward or backward. On the other hand, the lower lumbar vertebrae have facets that allow them to move more to the sides, like when you twist your torso. It’s like having different types of connectors for different movements.
Think of the nerves in your lower back like tiny pathways that start in your spinal cord and come out from the vertebrae like tree roots spreading out. These nerves travel downwards to the legs, and contain both sensory and motor fibers. Sensory fibers communicate messages to the brain, while motor fibers receive signals from the brain.
The brain is the source from which your spinal cord descends, running down your spine and ending near the top of your lower back, known as the conus medullaris. From here, the spinal nerves, which look like a horse’s tail, form the cauda equina. These three components of the lower back are vital and any damage or compression should be addressed by a medical professional right away. Understanding the basics of your lower back’s structure can be handy. It can help you figure out whether it’s a muscle ache or something like sciatica. Plus, it makes it easier to talk to your doctor about what’s going on.
Back pain can have two different origins: it can be related to an injury or not. Back pain resulting from an injury is typically caused by accidents, like car collisions or falling incidents. This is the type of back pain that usually comes to mind first. But in most cases, back pain isn’t caused by some big injury. It can come from everyday stuff like reaching for things or bending over. Sometimes, though, it might be because of something more serious, like an infection or tumors in your spine. If you’re losing weight or getting a fever without any clear reason, that’s when it might be worth checking out with a doctor.
Lower back pain is something that many people go through, and it can be a real pain in the… well, back. It doesn’t discriminate – anyone, young or old, can feel it. Sometimes it’s just a little ache, and other times, it’s like a freight train of pain. There are lots of reasons for it – maybe you pulled a muscle, or your spine isn’t playing nice, or it could even be something going on inside you. Knowing what signs to look for can help you and your doc figure out what’s what. So, whether you’re feeling some recent back twinges or just want to be in the know, this guide’s got your back.
Buttock Pain – Buttock pain is often linked to back pain since it is commonly referred to as pain from worn out facet joints in the spine. Referred pain signifies that pain is felt in a part of the body that is not actually injured due to shared nerves with another part of the body. It is possible for buttock pain to occur without being caused by back pain; it may be a result of strains in the buttock muscles.
Shooting Pain – Pain that radiates down the leg is usually caused by restriction of the nerve pathways in the spinal cord. This can be due to disc injury or the deterioration of the facet joints. Imagine your spine is like a tunnel, and inside that tunnel, there are nerves that help your body work smoothly. Now, if something starts to squeeze that tunnel, like a too-tight pair of shoes, it can pinch those nerves and cause some serious discomfort. People who’ve been through it often say it feels like an electric shock or a sudden jolt of lightning running down their leg, all the way to their toes. This is referred to as sciatica or radicular pain.
Leg or Foot Numbness or Weakness – Nerves in the spine can be compressed, leading to sensations of numbness and weakness in the lower legs, feet, and toes. This is due to the nerves carrying feeling from the legs to the brain and facilitating movement in the legs. In some cases, the pinching of nerves can be so intense that a person may suffer intense numbness in the feet or severe weakness in the lower leg muscles, resulting in the foot dropping.
Leg Cramps – Leg cramps may become an issue for people with back pain, particularly if the source of the back pain leads to a narrowing of the spinal canal. This type of crampy leg pain typically occurs after a certain distance of walking and can be relieved by sitting down.
Recovering from lower back pain typically involves rest, ice, over-the-counter pain medication, and gradually getting back to activities. This helps to improve circulation to the area and promote healing. Additional treatments may be needed depending on the cause of the pain, such as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, prescription drugs, physical therapy, hands-on manipulation, massage, injections, or surgery.
In many cases, back pain resolves on its own within three months and surgery is not typically needed. When your lower back starts acting up, you have options to help you feel better. Think of it like a menu of choices. There are medicines that can calm down inflammation, hot and cold packs that offer comfort like an old friend’s hug, and physical therapy, which is like giving your back a little spa day. So, if your lower back is giving you trouble, you’re not alone – it’s a common reason folks visit their healthcare buddies
In cases of persistent and disabling back pain, surgery may be considered if other treatments have not been successful. Ever felt that pesky pain shooting down your legs? It’s like a cramp in your style, right? Well, it might be because your nerves are feeling a bit pinched in your spine. Picture this: disks in your back acting up, like a misbehaving sandwich filling. Or, it could be those sneaky bone spurs from osteoarthritis causing some trouble. These issues can squeeze the space where your nerves like to hang out, causing some discomfort.
Surgery may provide relief from leg pain more effectively than it does for back pain. But here’s the twist: even after going through the procedure, some folks still feel those nagging aches in their backs. Sometimes, it’s like trying to find a needle in a haystack, you know? Even when tests point fingers at disks or bone spurs, it can be a bit tricky to pin down the exact troublemaker causing the pain. Sometimes, imaging tests reveal bulging or herniated disks, but these may not be causing any symptoms and therefore may not require treatment.
Various types of back surgery may be performed, such as diskectomy (removing the herniated portion of a disk), laminectomy (eliminating bone at the back of the spine to make more room for the spinal cord and nerves), fusion (removing arthritic joints and using metal implants to join two or more bones in the spine), and artificial disks (plastic and metal devices that can replace the damaged cushion between two spinal bones).
You know, sometimes it’s the little tweaks in your daily routine that can make a big difference when it comes to taming that troublesome lower back pain. By doing these tips you prevent and relieve lower back pain.
Maintain a healthy weight – Being overweight or obese can put extra strain on your back. Strive to keep your weight in a range through a balanced diet and regular physical activity.
Get regular exercise – Exercise helps to strengthen your back muscles and improve your flexibility. Try to sneak in around 30 minutes of exercise most days of the week. It doesn’t have to be too intense, just enough to get your heart pumping and your body moving.
Good posture – Good posture helps to reduce stress on your back. When you’re seated it’s important to maintain posture by keeping your back and your shoulders relaxed. When standing, keep your core muscles engaged and your head held high.
Lifting objects properly – When lifting objects, bend your knees and keep your back straight. Avoid twisting your back.
To wrap things up, dealing with lower back pain isn’t a one-size-fits-all deal. It’s about putting together what you know, taking care of yourself, and sometimes, seeking help from a doctor. If you get what’s causing it and how it feels, you can use gentle methods to feel better and adjust your lifestyle to support your back. Remember that everyone’s journey with lower back pain is unique, and what works best for you may vary. So, it’s really important to reach out to healthcare experts when necessary and stick to a well-rounded approach. When you’ve got the right info and put in the effort, you can lessen the effect of lower back pain and savor a life that’s healthier and more comfy.
Lower back pain can crop up for all sorts of reasons, like straining your muscles, having a disc that’s acting up, dealing with arthritis, or just not sitting or standing right. To really tackle it, you need to figure out what’s causing it in the first place.
When your lower back is giving you a really hard time, especially if it just won’t quit after a few weeks or it brings along other strange feelings like pins and needles in your legs or weakness, it’s a good idea to reach out to a healthcare pro. They can help you make sense of it all.
Alternative approaches to treat discomfort without procedures consist of engaging in therapy performing exercises utilizing hot or cold therapy using, over the counter pain relievers and making adjustments to one’s lifestyle.
Certainly! Making lifestyle adjustments like keeping a weight, practicing proper posture, engaging in regular physical activity and paying attention to ergonomics can be beneficial in preventing and addressing lower back pain.
Not necessarily. Lower back pain can just be a mild condition but if other symptoms appear, you may need to consult a doctor.
Certain types of exercises that put strain on the back have the potential to worsen pain. It’s important to perform exercises recommended by a healthcare provider or physical therapist.
Yes, stress and mental health conditions can contribute to or exacerbate lower back pain. That is why it is important to learn how to relax and unwind.
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.