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What can cause Low Back Pain (Lumbago)?


Low back pain or lower back pain (also described as lumbago) is an aching discomfort that occus in the lumbar portion of the spine. It is one of the most common health problems, and is the reason most often given for taking time off work.

Low back pain may be the result of excessive strain on the lower back due to a poor posture, being overweight, or having to do a lot of carrying or lifting of heavy loads. For a few people, persistent back pain may be due to arthritis.

What causes low back pain?

Back pain is usually caused by a mechanical disorder of one of the structures in or around the spine. The pain may be the result of damage to a ligament or muscle, or to one of the joints between adjacent vertebrae bones of the spine.

Occasionally the pain is due to a disc prolapse, a condition in which the spongy material between the vertebrae, bulges through its surrounding ligament and presses on adjacent spinal nerves.

This nerve pressure causes pain in the back and also pain running down the back of the legs sciatica.

Other causes of back pain include arthritis, ankylosing spondylitis a disease of the joints and, rarely a tumour in the spinal column. It may also be caused by abdominal problems such as peptic ulcer, pancreatitis inflammation of the pancreas, or aortic aneurism localized widening of the aorta.

In most cases, back pain goes away within a few days. It often improves before the doctor has arranged any tests, so the exact cause may not be confirmed. If the pain persists or keeps coming back, tests will be done to establish a diagnosis.

How is low back pain diagnosed and treated?

Most episodes of low back pain can be resolved by resting the back for a few days. However, if the condition is persistent or recurrent, the doctor’s diagnosis can usually be made by means of a physical examination.

This includes testing neurological nervous system responses and muscle function.

Other diagnostic studies may include a CT computed tomography scan an x-ray procedure which produces a detailed crossectional image of a particular part of the body, or a myelogram an x-ray of the back taken after an injection of a dye into the spine.

Bed rest for at least a few days is often recommended. Painkillers, anti-inflammatory drugs and muscle relaxants can help relieve muscle spasm.

Manipulation of the back by a doctor, physiotherapist or osteopath can be very effective, helping to relieve the pain and spasms in some cases.

What can I do myself?

Avoid prolonged sitting and keep the back mobile. Take regular exercise aimed at strengthening abdominal and back muscles. Swimming is excellent exercise for back pain.

Using a back rub can also help control minor bouts of back pain. Some people find relief from cold treatment with an ice pack.

For persistent backache, a gradual lost os excess weight will help reduce the weight-bearing load on the spine. Sleeping on a firm mattress and, for severe, chronic back pain, wearing a corset-like back brace can also help to ease the situation.

Reducing emotional stress if at all possible can help, as many people unconsciously tighten their back muscles when they are worried or tense.

What will the doctor do?

Your doctor will examine your posture and the movements of your back when you are standing. You will then be asked to lie down so your back can be checked for areas of tenderness and muscle spasm.

The nerve and muscle function in both legs will also be checked, as pressure on the spinal nerve can cause numbness or weakness.

Is low back pain dangerous?

Low back pain is rarely dangerous. However, if the pain is accompanied by leg weakness, a feeling of numbness, or bladder or bowel problems, this indicates that there is pressure on one or more of the spinal nerves.

If the pain is caused by a disc prolapse or tumour, prolonged pressure on a spinal nerve will require surgery, as permanent nerve damage can result. You must see a doctor if the pain is persistent.


  • Pain that radiates from the back into a leg sciatica.
  • Numbness or tingling sensations which occur in one or both legs.
  • Weakness in a leg.
  • Loss of control over bladder or bowel.
  • Muscle spasm.

Anyone with severe back pain caused by an injury or fall, or who is unable to move, should be taken by ambulance to the nearest hospital.

Do not move the injured person as this should only be done by trained staff.

How can I avoid low back pain?

  • Maintain your ideal weight.
  • Practise back and abdominal exercises.
  • Wear flat or low shoes.
  • Sleep on a firm mattress.
  • When lifting, squat down in a knee-bend, pick up the object and hold it close. Keep your back upright, but not unnaturally straight. Slowly straighten your legs as you rise.

Many persons that are susceptible to back pain cringe at the idea of exercising.

Even the simplest, regular movements like bending over and taking a stand can appear like an impossible feat. Nevertheless, many of those that are plagued with back pain can really take advantage of exercising.

From acute injuries like muscle strains to degenerative illnesses like spinal arthritis, you will find lots of reasons for back pain. Determined by what has caused your disquiet (too as many other factors), you might or might maybe not take advantage of exercising.

You ought to consult with your physician, before you start any exercise regimen. You may even need to ask your physician in case you are a candidate for physiotherapy.

Some patients prefer dealing with a physiotherapist to exercising alone because it enables them all to rest easy knowing they are targeting the appropriate muscle groups, and they are performing all exercises correctly and safely.

Kinds of Physical Therapy

What activities is it possible to anticipate doing in physiotherapy? Active or passive therapies may be entailed by your sessions (or, as is frequently the case, a blend of both).

Active therapies demand your direct contribution (they’re “done by you”) and may include extending and strength training exercises, while passive therapies are performed by the physical therapist (or, they are “done for you”).

Active Physical Therapy

Common active treatments include:

Strength-training : Essentially the most common active treatment, strength training functions to stabilize the spine by making the neck, straight back, and abdomen stronger and better in a position to support the weight of your human body.

Stretching/flexibility exercises: Gently stretching the muscles will help some patients alleviate muscle tension to lessen pain. This kind of active treatment generally goes hand in-hand with weight training.

Posture adjustment exercises: This kind of active treatment can technically are categorized as the resistance training and stretches classes of physiotherapy. Nevertheless these exercises especially serve to enhance a patient’s bearing while sitting, standing, and sometimes even sleep.

Passive Physical Therapy

Common passive treatments include:

Heat/ice treatment — This treatment entails the application of heat alternated with the application of ice. Using heat to the affected region can alleviate muscle tension, while a cold compress can reduce inflammation and numb pain.

Transcutaneous electric nerve stimulation (TENS) — Yet another kind of passive treatment, TENS involves the delivery of an electric current to a particular nerve in the rear.

This is really a noninvasive treatment (the current is sent via the skin), and causes no pain. Mild heat created by the present will help alleviate muscle tension.

Ultrasound therapy — Also a passive therapy, ultrasound therapy includes the transmission of ultrasound waves throughout your skin and in-to underlying tissues.

The high frequency sound waves created all through the ultrasound deliver heat deep in to the muscles, tendons, and ligaments, encouraging healing and relaxing muscle spasms.


Many people with recurrent back pain have found relief by studying and following the Alexander Technique. This is a system of posture adjustment and training for the correct movement of the spine, neck and limbs. The technique is taught in individual classes.

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