Spine Basics: Understanding Low Back Pain

Almost everyone will experience low back pain at some point in their lives. This pain can vary from mild to severe. It can be short-lived or long-lasting. However it happens, low back pain can make many everyday activities difficult to do. Back pain is different from one person to the next. The pain can have a slow onset or come on suddenly. The pain may be intermittent or constant. In most cases, back pain resolves on its own within a few weeks.

There are many causes of low back pain. It sometimes occurs after a specific movement such as lifting or bending. Just getting older also plays a role in many back conditions. As we age, our spines age with us. Aging causes degenerative changes in the spine. These changes can start in our 30s — or even younger — and can make us prone to back pain, especially if we overdo our activities. Back pain varies. It may be sharp or stabbing. It can be dull, achy, or feel like a “charley horse” type cramp. The type of pain you have will depend on the underlying cause of your back pain.

It may not be possible to prevent low back pain. In general, treatment for low back pain falls into one of three categories: medications, physical medicine, and surgery. We cannot avoid the normal wear and tear on our spines that goes along with aging. But there are things we can do to lessen the impact of low back problems. Having a healthy lifestyle is a good start.

Exercise

Combine aerobic exercise, like walking or swimming, with specific exercises to keep the muscles in your back and abdomen strong and flexible.

Proper Lifting

Be sure to lift heavy items with your legs, not your back. Do not bend over to pick something up. Keep your back straight and bend at your knees.

Weight

Maintain a healthy weight. Being overweight puts added stress on your lower back.

Avoid Smoking

Both the smoke and the nicotine cause your spine to age faster than normal.

Proper Posture

Good posture is important for avoiding future problems. A therapist can teach you how to safely stand, sit, and lift.

Read the full article here: http://orthoinfo.aaos.org/topic.cfm?topic=a00311

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