What is it?
Lower back pain (LBP) is just as it sounds: pain in the lower region of your back. It may be general and felt across the entire region of your lower back, or specific to one side or location. Listed as one of the most prevalent musculoskeletal disorders in North America, it has been suggested to affect up to 84% of the population at some point during their life. Due to the fact that specific diagnoses are absent in approximately 85% of cases, multiple treatment modalities are often required. Symptoms may range from a constant dull ache to a sharp or stabbing pain in the lower portion of your back. Onset of symptoms may result from heavy lifting, poor mechanics, work related activities, stress, posture, extended periods of sitting or standing, chronic disease, excess body weight, or even your workout routine.
LBP can be classified into two categories, including chronic, which is any ache or pain lasting longer than three months, and acute, which is pain that begins following an event such as lifting a heavy object. If you are experiencing severe LBP following an acute event, a trip to the hospital may be best to rule out any major damage. If your LBP has been a constant hindrance to your activities of daily living, your family physician is well equipped to start your road to recovery.
What do people experience?
Symptoms may be specific to one location or across the entire region of your lower back and can include:
- Sharp pain or a dull ache
- Muscular tightness
- Difficulty standing up from a seated position
- Discomfort bending over
- Discomfort while walking or performing activities of daily living
- ‘Flare ups’ or periods of heightened symptoms
- Discomfort while sleeping
- Stiffness upon waking in the morning
- Pain or discomfort during and after extended periods of sitting
Risk factors & how to avoid discomfort
Risk factors for discomfort include:
- Heavy lifting
- Activities that require bending, twisting or reaching
- Poor fitting or worn out footwear
- High impact and high volume or intensity of exercise during periods of heightened symptoms
- Being overweight or obese may increase the strain on the joints and muscles in your lower back
- Stress and anxiety can play a role in heightening symptoms
What are my options for treatment? Who else can help?
Just as there is more than one way to get lower back pain, there is certainly more than one way to treat it. The treatment(s) that are appropriate for you depend upon a number of factors including your symptoms, job, daily activity requirements, age, health status, body weight, etc. Your family physician typically serves as the first line of defense for treatment and will be able assist you with medications and lifestyle alterations if appropriate, or refer you to the right type of medical professional for further care.
Physiotherapists and kinesiologists may be appropriate to assist with exercises, stretches or lifestyle alterations; pedorthists may be appropriate to control motions of the foot that may impact alignment or muscular strain; occupational therapists can help with life style modifications and assistive devices; chiropractors can help with alignment issues or imbalances; dieticians may assist with weight and diet management; kinesiologists may assist with ergonomics (ensuring living environments and work stations are conductive to your posture and mechanics). As you can see, there are as many ways to treat LBP as there are to get it. It is our hope the information provided here will be enough to start your road to recovery!
Staying active with pain
Daily discomfort can be managed and in many cases improved with moderate intensity, low-impact exercise. During times of heightened symptoms, low intensity range of motion exercises and stretches may help relieve muscular tightness. High impact and intense exercise should be avoided until symptoms are fully under control or until your physiotherapist or kinesiologist suggests it is ok for you to do so. Appropriate warm up and cool down should always be performed before and after exercise to ensure optimal muscle function. If you are new to exercise or have questions regarding appropriate exercise selection, consult with your kinesiologist or physiotherapist.
Appropriate footwear with adequate support and cushion is important during periods of exercise. Consult with your pedorthist regarding footwear that is appropriate for your foot type and selected activities.