Today’s article is a guest post from a friend of mine, Carol Nevitt. I hope you find it helpful.
Lower back pain is a widespread ailment that affects millions of people worldwide. Just about everyone has some incident of lower back pain at some time in his or her life. According to the National Institutes of Health, the only thing more common than back pain is the headache.
There are many causes of lower back pain, but most are caused by muscle strain, ruptured (or herniated) disc, spinal stenosis (common in the aging population) arthritis (commonly found in the knees and fingers, but can be found in the spine, as well), and osteoporosis (where the pain is usually caused by compressive fractures).
Most periods of back pain will be resolved in a matter of days or weeks by following the first line of treatment: rest and heat. Rest allows the back to have time to heal itself and the heat soothes the pain and gives much-needed (if only temporary) relief. After a few days there should be significant improvement. After a few weeks, the episode is often completely gone.
There are some symptoms that should cause you to contact your physician right away. These include the following:
If the pain goes down your leg below the knee
If you feel numb in your leg, groin, foot, or rectal area
If you have a fever or nausea/vomiting
If you lose control of your bowels
If you lose bladder control
If you have weakness or sweating
If your pain was caused by an injury
If you are in so much pain you cannot move around
If your pain does not improve in 2 or 3 weeks
There are different types of treatment for back pain. The type of treatment will depend on the cause of the pain, the patient and the doctor. Some of the treatments used for back pain are as follows:
1. Rest and heat, as has been mentioned. These are the first things to try.
2. Balneotherapy is a very old therapy for pain relief. The word comes from the Latin for “bath,” and it is a form of hydrotherapy. It involves bathing in mineral water or warm water. Studies have shown that bathing in mineral water compared to tap water shows marked superiority in pain relief and increased mobility. (Note: People with heart conditions should check with their primary care physician before attempting balneotherapy.)
3. Physical therapy/exercise is used to help strengthen the back muscles and decrease pain. By increasing the flexibility and the strength of the back muscles, weight is more favorably distributed and less pressure is put on the spine.
4. Prescription drugs (such as narcotics and muscle relaxants) are often used for back pain relief. Extreme caution should be used when taking these types of drugs because the side effects can be considerable – even to the point of being able to function well. Addiction can also be a concern for some narcotics. Always ask about possible side effects that you should know about and what symptoms should indicate a call the prescribing doctor.