Dealing with Low Back Pain

By Dr. Okechukwu Amako, MBBS (Ibadan)
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Low back pain is one of the most common health complaints that people have when they enter their 40s and 50s. The strength and integrity of the human bone and muscles begin to slightly decline as one advances in age into the 40s and 50s and onwards.

So, any undue physical stress at this point going forwards will be too much for the bone and muscles to handle completely without being overwhelmed--which manifests most commonly as pain. Low back pain also occurs in people who are younger than 40 years from different causes.

The most common causes of low back pain include sitting in a bad posture for hours which happens in many workplaces, wrong sleeping positions, excessive lifting, engaging in a very demanding physical activity one is not used to, or accidents such as hitting the back against a heavy object. Most of these cases of low back pain will resolve with just adopting the right posture or position for sitting or sleeping, stopping any physical activity identified as a cause. But this may take a few days during which the affected person will have to endure some pain.

Hence, anyone with a low back pain can do the following to alleviate the pain while waiting for it to resolve:

1. Cold or Heat therapy

This involves the application of ice packs to the site on the back where the pain is being felt. The ice packs relieve the pain by preventing or reducing the swelling from the site and numb the sensation of the pain

Heating pads (rubber bags filled with hot water) or hot water bottles can also be applied to the back two days after the onset of pain. The heat helps to relax muscle aches and stimulates an increase in blood flow to the area which quickens the healing process.

2. Physical exercise

This will involve working with a doctor and a physiotherapist to create a suitable exercise program that will help relieve the back pain. The right physical exercise can also strengthen the muscles and make them less prone to injury, preventing the occurrence of a serious bone or muscle problem in the future.

3. Massage or a few hours of bed rest in a proper position can also help in relaxing the sore muscles of the back for someone with low back pain.

There are other causes of low back pain which may signal a more serious medical condition. They include:

-Disc herniation is a condition in which the disc between the bones of the spine pushes out and compresses on a nerve where it branches out of the spinal cord. This causes back pain depending on the location and can also cause a tingling sensation in the arms or thighs and legs.

-In women, low back pain may be a symptom of breast cancer. The lower back is one of the commonest regions that breast cancer spreads to in addition to the lungs and the brain. So, a woman with an unusual breast appearance and then a low back pain should rush to a hospital to see a doctor if she has not done so prior to having the back pain.

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Published Wednesday, April 19th 2017

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