There are many types of back pain and many causes. For this article, I will discuss the two main types of low back pain, chronic and acute. We will look at how to treat it and what type of back pain requires urgent medical attention.
Acute Back Pain
This type of pain is usually sharp and of sudden onset. You might bend over to pick up something off the floor or twist and immediately feel a sharp pain in the back.
Here are some steps to follow when this occurs:
1. Stop moving and take some deep breaths.
2. Assess your symptoms by asking yourself the questions below:
– Is the pain just in the lower back region? If this is the case, then find the most comfortable position for you to rest in and place ice on your back for ten minutes. If the pain reduces then slowly walk around for a few minutes and then make an appointment to see a Chiropractor, Physiotherapist or Osteopath as soon as possible. Try and get a recommendation for someone good in your area if possible.
– Does your back pain refer to down the leg? If this occurs, you may be suffering from sciatica. So, find a comfortable position such as lying on your side (knees bent) with a pillow between your legs and place ice on your back for twenty minutes. If the pain is not improving after 30 minutes or so then you may need to seek urgent medical assistance if you are unable to move at all. Taking some painkillers or antiinflammatories may help you to walk so that you can visit a Doctor, Chiropractor, Physiotherapist or Osteopath as soon as possible.
– Is there numbness and/or pins and needles? This means that you have sustained an injury that is placing a moderate or severe amount of pressure on a nerve. If you don’t have any severe pain or weakness in your legs, then make an appointment with a doctor and go there as soon as possible. If you do have severe back pain and weakness in your legs, then don’t move and try and get somebody close by to call an ambulance so that you can get assessed by a medical professional as soon as possible.
– Do you have weakness in your legs? If you can’t move your feet up and down or wiggle your toes, then don’t move and get someone to call an ambulance for you. Take some deep breaths and don’t panic.
– Have you lost control of your bowel or bladder function? This may be a sign of nerve compression or inflammation at the end of the spinal cord. This is a medical emergency, and you need to get to the hospital as soon as possible to call an ambulance.
– Do you have reduced sensation around the anal region? This means that you need to seek medical attention immediately due to nerve damage.
Chronic Back Pain
Chronic back pain is pain that persists for 12 weeks or longer. There are many causes of chronic back pain, but it usually starts with a back injury of some kind that doesn’t resolve. Sometimes the cause is unknown.
Here are some tips for people with chronic back pain:
– Try all available treatments such as Chiropractic, Physiotherapy, Massage Therapy and Acupuncture. Get a recommendation for a good therapist in your area and do one modality at a time. I would suggest at least a month of treatment is required before you know if it is helping. With back pain, there is no such thing as a quick fix, and you must be persistent with the treatment unless the pain is becoming worse.
– Improve your posture and ergonomics. This is crucial for people that have desk jobs and sit in front of a computer all day.
– Strengthen your core muscles to support your back by doing Pilates or something similar. This may relieve pressure on your back and reduce pain.
– Lose weight by gradually improving your diet and by doing some gentle exercise such as swimming, walking or Pilates. Any excess weight can put added stress on the spine and strain the spinal joints, ligaments, muscles or discs.