Lumbago (Low back pain)

Most people will have at least one backache in their life. Although this pain or discomfort can happen anywhere in the back, the most common area affected is the lower back. This is because the low back supports most of the body’s weight.

Mechanism of lower back pain

The lumbar (or lower back) region is made up of five vertebrae with fibrocartilaginous discs in between that act as cushions, preventing the vertebrae from rubbing together, and at the same time protecting the spinal cord. Nerves that come from and go to the spinal cord provide the skin with sensations and send messages to muscles.

A backache is the result of strain on the muscles, nerves, or ligaments of the spine. It can occur due to poor posture, carelessness in lifting or carrying heavy packages, sitting in one position for a long time in the wrong kind of chair, or sleeping on a mattress that is too soft. Backache also often accompanies menstruation, and is common in the later stages of pregnancy. Emotional tension can also bring on back pain.

Type of symptoms

Acute lower back pain

Acute lower back pain is defined as lower back pain that’s present for up to six weeks. It may be experienced as aching, burning, stabbing, sharp or dull, well-defined, or vague. The intensity may range from mild to severe and may fluctuate. The pain may radiate into one or both buttocks or even into the thigh/hip area.

Chronic back pain

If you experience lower back pain for more than three months, it is defined as chronic low back. The pain may originate from an injury, disease or stresses on different structures of the body. The type of pain may vary greatly and may be felt as bone pain, nerve pain or muscle pain. The sensation of pain may also vary. The intensity may range from mild to severe.

Preventing and caring for lower back pain

Most lower back pains can be resolved on its own within four to six weeks, with or without medical treatment. In many instances, lower back pain can be managed at home without too much fuss. Applying ice or heat directly to the affected area can help to decrease swelling and inflammation, and ease your discomfort. Heat works by dilating blood vessels, which increases the oxygen supply to the back and helps reduce muscle spasms. Cold works by possibly decreasing the size of the blood vessels and the blood flow to the area. Although it may feel painful at first, it can ease deep pain.

Remain active even though the natural inclination may be to stay in bed or “freeze” everyday activity. There is no reason not to completely avoid stretching muscles and tissues in the legs and back, but stretching should not cause more severe pain. Activity keeps blood and nutrients flowing to the affected area, reducing inflammation and muscular tension. Controlled cardiovascular activities, such as walking actually helps alleviate the pain.