By Robert Herbst AP, DOM – Margate, Florida – Lower back pain is one of the commonest types of pain experienced by many adults today. 80% of people experience lower back pain at some point in their lives. Research shows that lower back pain is the leading job-related disability and one of the biggest contributors to missed work days. In the US, lower back pain is one off the most troublesome conditions. In 2010, a research in the US put the condition in third place after ischemic heart disease and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease as the leading diseases.
Lower back pain ranges from a dull intensity to a persistent sharp sensation that can leave one incapacitated. The pain can start immediately following an accident or as a reaction to lifting something heavy. Sometimes, the pain develops over a period of time as the spine ages.
Types of lower back pain
Based on the length of time it lasts in the body, lower back pain may be classified as acute, sub-acute or chronic. In most cases, lower back pain is acute and lasts for a few weeks. It usually resolves on its own with self-care. At other times, the pain lasts between 4 and 12 weeks. In this case, pain is classified as sub-acute. Lower back pain is considered chronic when it has lasted for 12 weeks or longer. Sometimes, the use of treatment to cure lower back pain can be successful, while at other times the pain is persistent, even after the underlying causes have been cured.
Symptoms of lower back pain
Lower back pain is characterized by mild or severe aching in the lower back that usually occurs after lifting a heavy object or being engaged in physical activity. Other symptoms include difficulty in moving and muscle spasms. One may also experience soreness of the lower back upon touch. People suffering from lower back pain have also reported feeling pain around the groin region, buttock and upper thigh. Sometimes, lower back pain can be severe enough to prevent one from moving.
What causes lower back pain?
One of the causes of lower back pain is spondylosis. Spondylosis refers to the general degradation of the spine as a result of wear and tear within the joints, discs and bones of the spine. The condition is associated with aging.
Most times,however, lower back pain is caused by mechanical factors. These factors include:
- Intervertebral disc degeneration – This condition occurs when rubbery discs lose integrity and is caused by aging. As we grow older, our intervertebral discs lose their cushioning ability.
- Sprains and strains – Sprains and strains are among the leading causes of lower back pain. Twisting or lifting heavy things may tear the ligaments and muscles. These injuries may initiate spasms in the back muscles and cause pain.
- Radiculopathy – This condition affects the spinal nerve root and can result in severe pain and discomfort in the lower back. It is caused by compression or inflammation of the nerve root and results in pain within areas of the body served by the affected nerves. Sometimes, the condition may be caused the compression of a nerve root by osteophytes (bone spurs on the spine), or a herniated or bulging disc.
- Physical injury – Injuries resulting from accidents or sports can injure tendons and result in lower back pain. Traumatic injuries can also lead to compression of the spine and lead to irritation of the back.
- Spinal stenosis – This condition refers to the narrowing of the spinal column and can prove to be very painful. Sometimes, it occurs as a result of having walked over long periods of time, which may lead to numbness and sensory lost.
Western Medical Treatments for lower back pain
Several conventional treatments for lower back pain exist. Some of the more common ones include:
- The use of hot or cold packs – Although they do not alleviate the problem of lower back pain quickly, hot or cold packs are beneficial in reducing inflammation and allowing for greater mobility for people suffering from low back pain.
- Physical therapy – Various therapy programs have been developed to help those with low back pain recover. These programs strengthen muscles located in the lower back and enhance posture. Usually, physical therapy is used together with other interventions.
- The use of medication – Several medications have been developed to help with low back pain. Where one wants to use medication, it is always advisable to consult a doctor first as some drugs may have serious side effects especially when used during pregnancy. Popular medications include analgesic drugs such as aspirin and opioids such as morphine. Other drugs include NSAIDS, anti-convulsants and counter irritants.
- Other conventional approaches – People suffering from low back pain can also use traction to improve their spinal alignment. Other popular methods include spinal manipulation and nerve block therapies. In extreme cases, surgery may be recommended. Surgery helps relieve pain where musculoskeletal injuries or nerve compression are the causes. However, the risk involved with surgery makes it very unpopular with people seeking treatment for low back pain. Surgery may lead to permanent loss of mobility.
How acupuncture and Chinese Medicine can treat lower back pain
As a way to effectively treat acute and chronic pain, acupuncture has been existent for more than 2500 years. The method of treatment began in China and involves the insertion of thin needles in the body to stimulate the flow of energy and correct the imbalance of qi. Practitioners of acupuncture believe that this method helps alleviate pain and improve the general health of the body. Acupuncture targets the central nervous system and triggers the release of chemicals into the muscles, spinal cord and brain. The chemicals in turn alter the experience of pain by dulling it enhancing a sense of well being.
This method is also thought to increase the speed of electromagnetic signals and enhance the release of endorphins. Endorphins serve as painkillers and help alleviate the pain. Acupuncture is said to trigger the production of natural opioids which are very important in dulling pain and encouraging sleep. By altering the brain chemistry, acupuncture helps dampen the pain experienced through influencing the release of neurotransmitters.
Research has shown that acupuncture, when used with or without other forms of therapy (see Chinese Cupping), can be very beneficial in the treatment of low back pain. According to Spine, this approach was found work on 6359 patients out of a sample and proved more useful than regular therapy.
The Acupuncturists, Dr. Robert Herbst and Dr. Landon Agoado, serve the communities of Margate, Coconut Creek, Coral Springs, Tamarac, Parkland, Deerfield Beach, and West Boca. They accept insurance and offer free consultations daily.