Approximately 80% of people experience lower back pain at some point in their life. It affects people of all ages for various reasons. However, you can take certain measures to minimize the chances of developing lower back pain, and even if you do experience lower back pain, several treatment options are available.

In the following paragraphs Amy Lancaster, Clinical Director at the HealthWorks Rehab and Fitness Westover location, and Dr. Matt Lively, an orthopedic specialist, discuss some common reasons for lower back pain, possible treatment options, and preventative measures.    

Why Does It Happen? 

Lower back pain typically stems from muscle or ligament strain, tension, and injury. One of the most common reasons behind lower back pain is that people tend to overload the body by lifting something too heavy or lifting it incorrectly. This can lead to a muscle spasm, which is essentially a protective mechanism to keep you from injuring your body further. 

The body tends to lose strength and flexibility with age. Regardless, many people continue to push to the same limits as before, overloading the body and eventually causing back pain. Other common reasons for back pain include: 

  • Injury from exercise or sudden/awkward movement 
  • Lifting heavy objects improperly 
  • Trauma from an accident/fall
  • Bulging or herniated discs 
  • Compression fractures 
  • Medical conditions such as cancer, infection, etc. 

Lower back pain may also appear due to “regional interdependence,” which means the pain may be manifesting in the lower back area while the problem lies somewhere else. For example, issues with hip, spine, and mobility can manifest as back pain.   

Acute Vs. Chronic Back Pain 

Back pain can be classified as acute or chronic.

  • Acute Back Pain typically starts without reason and may last up to 6 weeks. It is easily treatable and sometimes goes away on its own. 
  • Chronic Back Pain is long term. It develops over a long period of time and if left untreated, it may last for years and cause ongoing problems. 

Treatment Options

Back pain treatment can be complex as the pain stems from various issues and conditions. After a medical examination, your doctor or physiotherapist can identify the best treatment option based on the cause, type, and severity of the pain, as well as your health, medical history, medical conditions, and other factors. Here are some common ways to deal with back pain. 

  • Medication: Over-the-counter pain killers and anti-inflammatory medications are the go-to treatment option for pain management. It is essential to mention that anti-inflammatory medications can take up to 2 to 3 weeks to take effect. Therefore, it is important to take them regularly. 
  • Exercise Therapy: Exercise therapy entails a physical activity plan designed to help recover from injury or effects of stress or strain. It may vary from patient to patient.  
  • Physical Therapy: This is another exercise-based approach to strengthen the body to treat chronic and acute pain through a variety of active and passive exercises, stretches and movements. 
  • Manual Therapy: Manual therapy includes hands-on techniques, such as manipulation or mobilization to treat soft tissue and joints. It can be bone or muscle-oriented and is a great option for people who need neuromuscular stabilization. However, it doesn’t focus on strengthening, which is why manual therapy is usually combined with other strength-building physical therapy programs. 

How to Prevent Back Pain

Different people experience back pain for different reasons. Therefore, it can be hard to recommend generalized exercises. Regardless, here are some preventative measures you can take:

Lift Properly – Lifting heavy weight is one of the leading causes of back pain. You can prevent back pain by lifting with proper form. It is recommended to bend the knees and keep the spine straight while lifting objects from the ground. a bowed back is much more vulnerable than a straight, supported one. 

Try Yoga – Yoga is an excellent option for people looking to steer clear of back pain. It focuses on flexibility, mobility, and building strength, which makes it the best preventative measure for back pain.  

Exercise Regularly  – The prevalence of lower back pain goes down significantly with increased fitness. Something as simple as walking, swimming, or exercising daily can help prevent or reduce back pain in the long run. It is recommended to opt for full-body exercises, such as planks, rather than just sit-ups or crunches. 

When to See a Doctor or Physical Therapist 

It is best to consult a doctor or physical therapist if: 

  • You experience debilitating pain. 
  • You experience chronic pain.
  • Over-the-counter medications have no effect on the pain even after several days of proper use. 
  • The pain gets worse over time. 
  • You experience other symptoms, such as pain or weakness in a leg.

If you experience any of these, it is best to consult a doctor or physical therapist. Many people believe it is inevitable to experience back pain, especially in later years of life. However, if you adopt a proactive approach, it is possible to prevent or reduce back pain significantly. 

If you or someone you know are experiencing pain in your lower back, contact your nearest HealthWorks Rehab & Fitness location to identify the cause for your back pain and the best treatment options for you!