Most people have experienced some degree of lower back pain at least once in their lives. In fact, the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke reports at least 80 percent of Americans will experience lower back pain at one point or another. The question is, what – if anything – can be done to manage these symptoms?
What Causes Lower Back Pain?
Before an individual can address lower back pain, they first need to attempt to understand what’s causing the discomfort. The most common culprits include:
- Muscles strains. The most common cause of lower back pain is a strain to the muscles and ligaments in this region. These strains typically cause stiffness, pain, and/or muscle spasms.
- Disc injuries. As age increases, so does the risk of disc problems. Herniated discs are surprisingly common as people enter middle age and occur when the cartilage surrounding the disc pushes against the spinal cord or nerves.
- Sciatica. Serious disc injuries can cause a disc to press up against the sciatic nerve, which connects the spine to the legs. This can result in pain in the legs and feet.
- Kidney stones. Kidney stones can actually cause lower back pain and are often confused for other underlying issues.
- Fibromyalgia. Some people suffer from fibromyalgia, which is long-term pain and tenderness of the muscles, tendons, and joints. The lower back is often a problem area for these individuals.
There are dozens of other possible causes of acute and chronic lower back pain. If pain lasts longer than a couple of days, doctors recommend seeking out a physician.
Tips for Managing Lower Back Pain
“Low back pain is more likely to occur in individuals between the ages of 30 and 50,” Healthline explains. “This is partly due to the changes that occur in the body with aging. As you grow older, the fluid content between the vertebrae in the spine reduces. This means discs in the spine experience irritation more easily.”
Assuming that there’s no underlying condition that can be treated, here are some tips and suggestions for managing chronic lower back pain and maximizing comfort.
1. Keep Moving
There are instances where bed rest is necessary, but the general rule of thumb is that it’s best to move around. The spine is like the rest of the body – it needs movement to function properly. When capable, doctors recommend light exercise that releases endorphins into the body.
“When endorphins are released in your body, they help block pain signals from registering with your brain,” Stephanie Burke writes for Spine-Health.com. “Endorphins also help alleviate anxiety, stress, and depression, which are all associated with chronic back pain and often make the pain worse.”
2. Think About Seating Choices
People with lower back pain need to constantly think about ergonomics when sitting. An office desk chair is obviously one thing to think about, but it’s also smart to consider other areas of life. For example, boaters and fishers will need to think about the seating on their boats. Those who spend a lot of time in the car will need to figure out proper driver’s seat alignment. Each of these issues is important.
3. Heat and Cold
For acute back pain – or sudden flare-ups – it’s best to apply ice within the first few hours. Ice will bring down the inflammation and accelerate the healing process. Heat can also be used in conjunction with ice to provide some relief and release tension in the muscles.
4. Make Healthy Decisions
At the end of the day, many future back issues can be prevented by making healthy life decisions. This is certainly true when it comes to weight.
Each additional pound an individual carries around puts added pressure on the spine. By losing weight and maintaining a normal BMI, people often experience tremendous relief from chronic pain. The same goes for unhealthy habits like smoking, which increase the risk of certain back problems.
Make Smart Choices
Chronic lower back pain can be frustrating, but it must be managed. By making smart choices, the 80 percent of Americans who experience lower back pain in their lifetimes can lessen the pain and continue to enjoy life in spite of their negative circumstances.