According to the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases, 80% of adults will deal with lower back pain during the course of their lives. It's more than a simple inconvenience, it's the leading cause of job-related disability and missed work and the problem is only getting worse.
There are a number of causes of lower back pain, including mechanical issues like injury, sciatica, sprains, and spinal irregularities; some serious conditions including tumors, kidney stones, infections, and other rare conditions that require immediate medical attention; and underlying conditions that lead to back pain including inflammatory joint diseases like arthritis, osteoporosis, and fibromyalgia.
Some risk factors can elevate the likelihood of experiencing lower back pain, these include:
- Age: onset most commonly occurs between 30 and 50 and grows more intense with age.
- Fitness: A weak core (back and abdomen) contribute to lower back pain, as do 'weekend warriors' who do little fitness during the week and strenuous exercise on the weekends.
- Weight: Obesity or quick weight gain can contribute strain on the back.
- Other factors: Pregnancy, heavy bags, desk jobs, poor bedding, genetics, repetitive heavy lifting, and some mental health issues can all contribute to lower back pain.
How to Treat Lower Back Pain?
Traditional treatments like hot or cold packs, over the counter medication, prescription medication, and physical therapy are all options for relieving lower back pain. Other treatment options include:
- Back-Friendly Furniture: Consider upgrading your mattress and, if you work in an office, your desk chair. Look for supportive options that will keep your spine protected when you recline into them.
- Acupuncture: This ancient medical treatment is gaining more traction in the West and can often be covered by insurance. Practitioners and aficionados swear by its ability to reduce acute low back pain.
- Surgery: In the worst cases, surgery may be required to correct an underlying issue that's causing the back pain.
Prevention of Pain
The best way to deal with back pain is to stop it before it starts. In addition to upgrading your mattress and acquiring a desk chair with proper lumbar support, you can use a fitness ball or a standing desk to help keep your core stronger and more supportive of your spine. Practice good posture. Stretch before any strenuous exercise or activity and focus on moderate, daily physical exercise rather than trying to 'cram' on days off. A balanced, nutritious diet and maintaining a healthy weight can also help keep bones and muscles strong and reduce strain.
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