Low back pain.
Low back pain is extremely common, with around 80% of us having experienced it at some point. If you’ve not struggled with it yourself, then someone you know will have.
The good news is that it’s rarely very serious, so whilst the pain may be debilitating, it will pass in a fairly short space of pain. This is ‘acute pain’ and is what I’ll deal with in this blog. Chronic i.e. long-term pain is another issue and I’ll look at that next time.
What is low back pain?
Well, it’s normally a strain of some sort. There are a variety of soft tissues in the low back – muscles, ligaments etc. and these can get strained with seemingly insignificant movements such as a sneeze or a sudden turn. If you’re unlucky, you may injure one of the discs in the low back (what used to be called a ‘slipped disc’).
People are often perplexed that their backs ‘went’ with such a seemingly small trauma. This is where you need to look beyond the actual thing that’s been injured. Is there any other areas of stiffness or tightness or any other factors such as posture at work or lack of activity that may have left you vulnerable to injury? In other words, the sneeze or sudden turn may just be the final straw.
What should you do about it?
You should take a proactive approach to back pain if you can. Long gone are the days when people with low back pain were told to go and rest.
The following steps should help:
Keep mobile. Try and avoid sitting for too long. Gently but regularly stretch the lower back. I can advise you on what stretches to do if you’re unsure.
Use heat and ice packs. In the first 24 hours of any injury, apply an ice pack for ten minutes, have a break for ten minutes and repeat so you get three applications of ice with breaks in between. After the first day, alternate the use of heat (such as a hot water bottle) with the ice pack so you’re getting 10 minutes of each in turn.
Pain relief. People worry that these will mask the pain and cause further injury but the body is an intelligent thing and knows what it can do and can’t do. There are anti-inflammatories and painkillers and different things work for different people. Remember to check that the medicine is safe for you to take and take the advice of your pharmacist or GP if you’re not sure.
Do I need to see anyone about it?
Most instances of low back pain will sort themselves out in a fairly short period of time but it’s a good idea to make an appointment to come and see us if:
- You’re concerned and want to know what’s causing the pain
- You’re concerned about either your symptoms getting worse or other problems such as pain or other symptoms, like pins and needles, spreading to other areas of the body
- Things don’t seem to be improving
- You want some treatment to calm the back down, get things moving again and speed up the recovery process
- You want help and advice with what you can do to reduce the pain
- You want to make sure there are no other areas of the body that may have been stiff and tight prior to the injury that need attention
- This episode of pain is something that keeps reoccurring