What are the best ways to manage lower back pain?

Date: October 2018

Author: Dr Jacqueline Swiatlowski

Lower back pain can vary from dull pain that develops gradually to sudden, sharp or persistent pain felt below the waist, often with radiation down legs or up the body. The most common cause is muscle strain for example lifting or forceful movement, bending or twisting into awkward positions, or standing in one position too long. 

There are many different conditions that cause or contribute to lower back pain. Many involve nerve compression (eg, pinched nerve) that may cause pain and other symptoms. Types of spinal disorders include trauma-related and degenerative; meaning age-related.

Some of these spinal problems are listed below:

  • Bulging or herniated disc. A herniated disc occurs when the soft interior matter escapes through a crack or ruptures through the disc's protective outer layer. Both disc problems can cause nerve compression, inflammation, and pain.
  • Spinal stenosis develops when the spinal canal or a nerve passageway abnormally narrows.
  • Spinal arthritis, also called spinal osteoarthritis is a common degenerative spine problem. It affects the spine facet joints and may contribute to the development of bone spurs.
  • Spondylolisthesis occurs when a lumbar (low back) vertebral body slips forward over the vertebra below it.
  • Vertebral fractures (burst or compression types) are often caused by some type of trauma (eg, fall).
  • Osteomyelitis is a bacterial infection that can develop in one of the spine bones.
  • Spinal tumors are an abnormal growth of cells (a mass) and are diagnosed as benign (non-cancerous) or malignant (cancer). 

How to ease and manage back pain:

If you've recently injured your low or lower back, there are a few things you can do.

  • Ice then heat
  • During the first 24 to 48 hours, use ice wrapped in a towel or cloth. Ice helps to reduce swelling, muscle spasms, and pain. Thereafter, switch to heat. Heat helps warm and relaxes sore tissues.
  • Over-the-counter medications
  • Anti-inflammatory medication taken according to package directions, may help reduce inflammation and pain.
  • Take it easy
  • Modify your daily routine to give your lower back the opportunity to recover.  

When to see Jurmaine Health:

  • Does not subside after a few days
  • Interferes with sleep and daily activities
  • Low back pain becomes severe and persistent

Contact us for lower back pain advice or treatment

NOTE - The symptoms listed below require immediate medical attention:

  • Bowel or bladder loss of control
  • Groin or leg weakness or numbness