Back pain is pain localized to the lower back, which is also known as the lumbar spine region. Back pain can come from several different structures in the lower back including the lumbar spine bones or joints, discs, muscles, or nerves. Common causes of back pain include poor posture, strain from an injury or lifting. Diagnoses can include muscle strain, lumbar disc herniation, degenerative disc disease, lumbar facet mediated pain, lumbar spondylosis, lumbar spinal stenosis as well as sacroiliac joint pain.
Back pain can be associated with pain in the lower back, buttocks and sometimes, can also include symptoms in the legs and feet. It is best to avoid activities that worsen the back pain which may include heavy lifting, running or jarring sports activities as well as prolonged sitting or standing.
In rare cases, back pain can signal a serious medical problem. Seek immediate care if your back pain is associated with new bowel or bladder symptoms (i.e. difficulty going or inability to control urine or bowel motion) or if the back pain follows a fall or trauma. Contact your doctor if you have back pain that worsens at night, is associated with leg pain, weakness, or numbness, unexplained weight loss, fevers or abdominal pain.
Over the counter pain relievers, plasters, heat, or cold packs may help relieve the pain temporarily. Bed rest is usually not recommended for most cases of back pain unless instructed by your doctor. Try to be aware of the postures and positions that worsen the pain and avoid doing them. Walking and activities of daily living are usually alright but if an activity increases your pain, you should avoid the activity.
Your doctor with perform a thorough history and exam. Sometimes, your doctor may order x-rays or a MRI of the lumbar spine. Diagnostic tests are not always necessary to confirm the cause of your back pain at the initial visit. Physical therapy and an appropriate home-based exercise program is an important part of back pain treatment.
A physical therapist may offer treatments such as muscle release techniques, ultrasound, heat or electrical stimulation to the back muscles and soft tissues to reduce the pain. As the pain improves, the therapist will teach you specific exercises to stabilize the back and core muscles, and improve your posture.
The above exercises can help prevent the back pain from happening again in the future. Your doctor may also prescribe pain medications for temporary use if over the counter medications are not helping.
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