Lower Back Pain Stats and Solutions
“My Back Hurts”
“I have this burning pain down into my buttocks and leg”
“I have Arthritis and Degenerative Disc Disease in my back”
“Pain Medication helps a little but it’s only temporary relief”
These are some of the most common statements we hear from our diverse patient population. While every patient is unique, our team works diligently to create a treatment plan specific to each and every patient, which usually yields a good and sustained outcome.
Just the Facts
80% of the population will experience low back pain (LBP) with most of these cases spontaneously resolving on their own within four months, usually sooner.
However, 85% of those who experience LBP will have recurrent episodes that are often worse than the prior episode(s) of back pain. These recurring episodes lead to fear and avoidance of movement and inactivity, which can then lead to a cycle of chronic pain, and disability.
Most LBP is a type of pain that’s classified as Mechanical pain, and not Chemical pain.
- This means that the forces of movements and postures stress pain producing structures in the lumbar spine. Often there are different positions that affect the LBP either in a positive or adverse way. Thus, usually the most appropriate way to treat LBP is with specific movements, postures, or exercises that optimize forces within the lumbar spine.
- Chemical pain describes pain that arises from an inflammatory response in your body. This is most prevalent in the first 1-2 weeks of onset of symptoms. After this time frame, pain medication often becomes less effective than using the mechanical interventions of movements, postures, and exercise to treat lumbar pain.
Burning pain down into the buttocks and leg commonly originate from the lumbar spine, even in the absence of low back pain. Treating the lumbar spine can often alleviate these symptoms.
Arthritis and Degenerative Disc Disease are not “diseases”, but are conditions in which natural age-related changes occur in the spine. Many people with these conditions have no symptoms. So if many people with a similar diagnosis live pain-free, perhaps you can too!
There are many times when symptoms are more severe and require immediate medical attention:
- If you have any changes in your bowel or bladder
- If you develop progressive or constant weakness in the lower extremities, such as a drop foot or your leg giving out
- If you experience a constant loss of sensation in the pelvis or lower extremities
So How Can I Take Care of My Back?
“Motion is Lotion”: Do you wake up stiff in the morning, but feel better when you move around? Does your back hurt worse after prolonged sitting? Movement helps to lubricate and nourish the structures in the low back, so avoid staying in static positions too long. If you find it difficult to remember to move throughout the work day, try setting an alert on your phone to remind you to get up and move at least once an hour.
Proper Exercise: Everyone has specific capabilities and needs, therefore exercises that may benefit one person, may harm another. Thus, the “Best Exercises for LBP” found on the internet are often not the optimal exercises for your unique presentation of symptoms. If you are unable to resolve your LBP or leg pain, seek out a professional in the medical field who can guide you to an independent path of self-care.
Postures: A common complaint we hear from patients is, “My pain gets worse throughout the workday”. With mechanical pain, constant stress on pain producing spinal structures combined with poor posture “fuels” the pain. Consider trying the following to tips:
- Sitting: Use a lumbar cushion placed at your waistline to promote a more upright posture that utilizes your core muscles to support the spine in a position that minimizes the negative and pain producing stresses.
- Working: Proper work station set up is key! On average, 1/3 of your day is spent at work. Whether you have a labor intensive occupation or are seated at the computer, you need to have an optimal set-up to help offset the mechanical stresses placed upon your spine throughout the workday!
- Sleeping: Is your pain worse in the morning? It could be from the position of your spine while you sleep. If your sleeping posture is poor, that can add an average of 6-8 hours of a prolonged and adversely stressful load to your spine.
- Side sleepers may benefit from pillow(s) between the knees and support under their waist
- Back sleepers usually prefer support under their legs/knees
- Stomach sleepers (if you must) often prefer a pillow under their waist
You spend 25%-33% of your life in bed, make sure you have a good mattress that works for you!
The cumulative and detrimental stresses of poor posture for hours each and every day cannot be overstated and should often be the first issue to address when you start to experience LBP!
Lifting Correctly: The muscles around the spine (often referred to as the core) hold the spine in an optimal (“neutral”) position in which there is slight inward (not flat) curve in your lower back. While the spine stays in this position, the hips and knees will bend to do the moving of the load you are lifting. That is why having strong legs helps to protect your lumbar spine. If you cannot squat down, you will likely bend at the waist setting your spine up for failure. Rules of lifting:
- Keep your spine in neutral while lifting
- Keep the load you are lifting as close to you as possible
- Keep your feet, hips, and shoulders all facing the same way…No Twisting
- Ask for Help. It may not be a heavy item, but a bulky item can place the spine in an awkward and harmful position
If you are experiencing lower back pain, the team at Orthopedic ONE is here to help! Click here to learn more about common causes, symptoms and treatment options and to access a list of our spine and physical medicine and rehabilitation physicians. You can also learn more about our Physical Therapy & Sports Medicine program by clicking here.