If you’ve ever experienced lower back pain, then you know first-hand how a back condition can affect your day-to-day life. You’re not alone. More than 80 percent of people will suffer from lower back pain at some point in their lives. Each year, approximately 3-4 percent of the American population experiences temporary disability due to lower back pain. In fact, it’s the second most common reason to see a doctor. Needless to say, lower back pain is a fairly big problem in the U.S.
Lower back pain can come in many forms. Although it sounds like the pain should be localized to the lower back, it can originate there and travel down your legs. Oftentimes, individuals will feel the pain radiate down one side of the buttocks and then further down that leg, but it rarely travels beyond the knee. Pain is typically on-going, but certain activities may cause it to flare, such as picking up heavy objects or standing for long periods of time. In some cases, walking or running can feel better than standing still. Pain can be achy and dull or more severe, and individuals may experience muscle spasms.
- Axial lower back pain is the most common type. This pain is localized to the lower back (it doesn’t travel), although it can manifest as either a sharp or a dull pain. It can become severe enough to limit movement.
- Lumbar radiculopathy is the type that travels down your leg, and the pain can feel deep and steady.
- You may also experience lower back pain alongside accompanying pain, such as in other areas of the groin, butt, or legs. Symptoms like accompanying abdominal pain or fever indicate an emergency, which should prompt you to visit a doctor immediately.
It’s not always clear what causes lower back pain, and for that reason, the pain can feel different for different people. According to doctors, only about 15 percent of cases can be explained by a specific cause, such as cancer or infection, although this is rare. More often than not, lower back pain is caused by everyday factors such as:
- Poor muscle strength
- Injuries from accidents
Even low quality shoes and furniture such as mattresses and office chairs can affect your back’s health. Other causes include herniated discs, obesity, and degeneration of the vertebrae. Factors like degenerated vertebra and loss of muscle mass means that lower back pain is common in the elderly.
Exercising and swapping out your furniture for higher quality options with more support can help reduce back pain. Ensure that your exercise remains low impact so you don’t worsen the symptoms. Biking and swimming are just some low-impact exercises to consider. Other treatment options include massage therapy, heat and ice packs, and inversion therapy.
Always talk to your doctor before embarking on a therapy regimen to ensure you don’t injure your back further. Continue therapy even after you begin feeling better to mitigate the risk of future problems. Consistent exercise also helps build up strength and flexibility in your back.
Our infographic below details more stats and information that will help you recognize how big of a problem lower back pain is, what causes it, and how to treat it. Use the information presented to prevent future injuries or to seek treatment if you are currently experiencing lower back pain.