If you’ve woken up with a twinge in your lower back or felt something “pull” in the middle of a long day, you are familiar with the discomfort of lower back pain. Whether you’re experiencing back pain, or hope to prevent it, there are steps you can take.
Lower back pain is startlingly common. As many as 80 percent of American adults have experienced lower back pain at some point in their lifetime.
All that back pain has a big impact on our lives. In fact, lower back pain is a leading cause of job-related disability—and a major cause of missed work days.
Beyond those missed work days, back pain is just a pain. While it can range in severity from annoying to downright debilitating, it’s always uncomfortable and often interferes with our daily routine.
Fortunately, whether you deal with chronic or acute lower back pain, there are steps you can take to help prevent that pain and ease it when it occurs.
What Causes Low Back Pain?
There are many causes of lower back pain, ranging from simply moving the body in the wrong way to an actual injury caused by an accident.
Of the many causes, sprains and strains are the most common. These are the ones that often occur due to moving in the wrong way. This can include twisting the body awkwardly, lifting improperly, or overstretching in an unnatural way.
Other causes may include disc degeneration, sciatica, spinal stenosis, and skeletal abnormalities such as scoliosis.
In some cases, lower back pain can be a symptom of an underlying medical condition such as a bladder infection, kidney stones, or even osteoporosis.
Can lower back pain be prevented?
In many cases, yes. Many of the risk factors for lower back pain are related to our lifestyle habits. That means that you can take steps to help lower your risk of developing back pain.
Changeable risk factors include:
- Sedentary lifestyle
- Weight gain
- Occupations that require sitting at a desk
- Occupations that require lifting, pushing, or pulling
While you can’t necessarily change out your occupation, you can still take steps to lower your risk associated with your occupation.
If you work in a job that requires heavy lifting or pushing/pulling, ensure that you’re well-versed in proper form and using the appropriate technique at all times.
On the other hand, if you work in a job that requires lots of time sitting at a desk, you’ll want to set up your desk for success ergonomically. First and foremost, sit up straight, with your feet on the floor and your hips as far back as they can go in the chair. Second, ensure your screen is an arm’s length away and that your wrists are straight with your hands above elbow level when typing.
Otherwise, take action to prevent back pain by getting regular exercise. This will help you to maintain a normal and healthy weight, which is another important factor in preventing lower back pain. Aim for 30 to 60 minutes of moderate physical activity on most days of the week—and include strength training and stretching for optimal health.
How can lower back pain be alleviated?
In many cases, lower back pain can be treated with minor, at-home care. If you’re experiencing discomfort, you may want to try:
- Application of heat or cold
- Stretching exercises
- OTC pain medications or anti-inflammatories
If you’re unable to find relief with these basic measures, your doctor may prescribe oral or injectable medications that can help. Physical therapy is also common.
In severe cases that aren’t alleviated with basic care or time, more radical measures like surgery may be called for. Your doctor can help make the determination when and if that’s necessary.
If you’re dealing with lower back pain that just won’t go away, it’s time to check in with your doctor. Need a doctor? Find one here.