About This Condition
The low back supports most of the body’s weight, and as a result, is susceptible to pain caused by injury or other problems. Over 80% of adults experience low back pain (LBP) sometime during their life.1 More than half will have a repeat episode.
It is often difficult to pinpoint the root of low back pain, though poor muscle tone, joint problems, and torn muscles or ligaments are common causes. A herniated or slipped disc may also cause low back pain as well as sciatica, a condition where pain travels down one or both buttocks and/or legs.
Standing or sitting for extended periods, wearing high heels, and being sedentary increase the risk of developing low back pain, as do obesity and back strain due to improper lifting. Up to half of pregnant women experience some low back pain.2 Long hours spent driving a car may contribute to a herniated disc.3 This is possibly due to the vibration caused by the car.4
Many people with low back pain recover without seeing a doctor or receiving treatment. Up to 90% recuperate within three to four weeks,5 though recurrences are common,6,7,8 and chronic low back pain develops in many people.9 Low back pain is considered acute, or short-term, when it lasts for a few days up to many weeks. Chronic low back pain refers to any episode that lasts longer than three months.
While low back pain is rarely life threatening, it is still important to have chronic or recurring back pain assessed by a healthcare professional. Potentially serious causes include spinal tumor, infection, fracture, nerve damage, osteoporosis, arthritis, or pain caused by conditions found in internal organs such as the kidneys.
Low back pain may be a steady ache or a sharp, acute pain that is worse with movement.
Hot and cold application, rest, strengthening and flexibility exercises, physical therapy, and instruction on good posture and body mechanics may be included in a conventional treatment plan. In some cases, back surgery may be recommended.