Low Back Pain: Causes, Symptoms and Diagnosis

Low Back Pain

1. Lower Back Pain Causes

Everyone at some time in their life encounters back pains. Soft tissue injuries such as torn muscle or ligament are the most common low back pain causes. Obesity, stress, poor postures, poor sleeping position, osteoarthritis, a broken vertebra, smoking, pregnancy weight gain, poor physical, and infections or tumor may also contribute to low back pain. Before looking for back pain remedies, it is necessary to know what causes back pain. The following reasons identify as most common causes of low back pain:

1.1. Muscle strain and Ligament Sprain

Muscle strains occur when a muscle gets damaged and stretched too far that it tears. And on the other hand, a muscle sprain is when the over-stretched or torn tissue affects ligaments which connect the bones together. A muscle sprain and strain causes include lifting a heavy object, sudden movements, poor posture, sports injuries and twisting spine.
Muscle strain and Ligament Sprain

1.2. Acute low back pain vs. Chronic low back pain

Acute backache – is a severe or sharp pain that lasts for six weeks or fewer. In most cases, the distress is induced by an injury or trauma. However, it can also be a result of spine disorder such as herniated disc which includes a limited range of motions, inability to stand straight and poor spinal flexibility. Individuals suffering from acute backache find the regular daily tasks difficult to perform.

Chronic backache- is a burning and dull type of ache that lasts for more than three months and mostly felt in the lower back or legs. Similar to acute ache, the chronic aches can also affect a person’s typical daily tasks, work, and social life.  Many factors trigger the chronic backache including, muscle strain, ligament sprains, trauma, fracture, deformity, osteoarthritis, spinal stenosis, sacroiliac joint dysfunction, facet joint dysfunction and herniated disc. Individuals with chronic backache experience emotional imbalance, depression and lack of sleep which leads to body fatigue.

Obesity, stress, poor postures, poor sleeping position,
osteoarthritis, a broken vertebra, smoking, pregnancy weight gain, poor
physical, and infections or tumor may also contribute to low back pain.

2. Back Pain Treatment

Low back pain management depends on the severity level and causes of pain. For mild acute pain, the goal is to restore normal function and minimize pain, however, for a more severe chronic torment, both medication and initial non-medication based treatments is recommended.

2.1. Medical Treatment

Muscle Relaxants – are back pain medication for short-term low back pain relief recommended together with physical therapy. A muscle relaxant is usually prescribed at an early stage of a backache for an immediate relief which is typically caused by muscle spasms. Some of the most common muscle relaxants include Baclofen, Chlorzoxazone (Lorzone, Parafon Forte DSC), Carisoprodol (Soma), Cyclobenzaprine, and Dantrolene. Muscle relaxants can be very helpful to provide comfort to a backache. However, there are some risks and side effects associated including dizziness, fainting, nausea, and allergic reactions.

Narcotic Pain Medication -these medications are known as painkillers for short-term intense pain management. Before prescribing these pills, a physical exam and urine test is necessary by doctors depending on the state of patients. Common types of Narcotic pain medications include Fentanyl, Hydrocodone, Hydromorphone, Meperidine, Methadone, Morphine, Oxycodone, Tapentadol, and Buprenorphine. These medicines require a prescription and usually given to patients recovering from surgery and severe back pain. Like any other medicine, these pills also have side effects including breathing problems, constipation, dry mouth, sleeping problems, upset stomach, lung and heart problems.

Back Braces – can enhance the healing process of backache by limiting the motion of the spine and allowing the bone to heal. These braces can also be used to support the treatment of a fractured bone and lumbar fusion.

Epidural Steroid Injections – this injection is given to patients directly in the outer part of their spinal cord into the dural sac. The primary purpose is to ease the discomfort temporarily and reduce the inflammation around the compressed nerve root.
According to Dr. Richard A. Staehler, MD, the epidural steroid injections are non-surgical back pain medicine for Sciatica and low back pain. The effect of this steroid can be temporary or can last from one week to one year. However, patients usually take it to get some help to support their exercises and rehabilitation programs.

2.2. Non-Medical Treatment

Exercise – Muscles in the back, hips, and abdomen support to stabilize the spine. Therefore, it is necessary to keep these muscles strong and avoid hurting. Some of the regular exercises for lower back pain are for stretching and strengthening the spine area muscles. Typical exercises for back pain include the spine or hip muscle stretches, hamstring stretches, pilates, yoga, tai chi, cycling, swimming, and walking. Some exercises aggravate severe pain , therefore should be avoided in case of acute or severe lower back pain.

Acupuncture – is alternative medicine in which needles are inserted into the body and have been in use for low back pain relief.  Acupuncture for back pain is a practice of traditional Chinese medicine that has been in use for at least 2500 years and stimulates the central nervous system. However, there is no real consensus that acupuncture is an efficient way to treat certain back pain conditions. It is always suggested to take doctor advice before practicing acupuncture for backache treatment depending on your medical condition.

Massage Therapy – is used to speed up the recovery of backache and reduce muscle spasms which contributes to the discomfort.  Massage also helps to increase blood flow and carry sufficient nutrients and oxygen to the damaged tissues and lessen discomfort. Exercise for back pain along with massage therapy contributes to lower the back pain symptoms.

Chiropractor – is known as one of the non-surgical treatment that focuses on spinal manipulation to reduce the lower back discomfort. This type of manipulation refers to improving functionality, improving stretching of muscles, reducing nerve irritability and restoring the motion in the back. In some cases, patients with non-specific low backache find the chiropractic treatment more effective than other therapies. Chiropractic treatment plan combined with exercise and some medication enhances the healing process of low back pain.

Heating Pads – the heating pad like any other therapy is in use to provides comfort for back through heat therapy. Heat can help to reduce muscle spasms and tightness that causes torment in the pelvis area. Heating pads have been in use for many years in different forms (electric, cordless, moist and microwavable) and used for long-term comfort or relieve. In most cases, heating pad has significant benefits to improve flexibility, decrease stiffness after an injury, and relieve the discomfort. Heating pads are also in use for cold treatment and ease chronicle distress.

3. Electric vs. non-electric heating pad

There are many electric and cordless heating pads which provide the same heat therapy for hurting back. The microwavable heating pad contains Himalayan salt, which retains the hot and cold temperatures for a more extended period. Due to its long heat preservation, the heating pad stays heated for longer. Furthermore, Himalayan salt emits negative ions in comparison to electric heating pads which releases positive ions.

3.1. Negative Ions vs. Positive Ions

Negative ions are beneficial for human body while positive ions are harmful. Negative ions contribute to the overall human well-being and scientifically proven to purify the blood and enhance the immune function. Negative ions are naturally found in the forest, beaches, mountains, and waterfalls. While positive ions are generated by computers, mobile phones, and other electronic devices. Positive ions can weaken brain functions and cause anxiety, body fatigue, headaches, poor concentration, nausea, and lack of energy.

According to the Japanese medical study, the ions are linked to the human health. The study showed that patients with arthritis and asthma claimed to have an increase in ache under atmospheres full of positive ions. Further, asthma and positive ions studied by doctors in North America showed that positive ions turn in to free radicals in the body that damages healthy cells and increase the acidity in the blood.

A muscle relaxant is usually prescribed at an
early stage of a backache for an immediate relief
which is typically caused by muscle spasms.

4. Lower Back Pain During Pregnancy

Approximately 50% of women experience back muscle pain during pregnancy and can not enjoy their pregnancy because of hurting back. Some factors that aggravate the pregnancy back trouble includes maternal weight gain, birth length, birth weight, lifting, and bending in wrong postures. Heating pad for back pain during pregnancy is an excellent therapy for pregnant women. Many pregnant women tend to use natural remedies and alternate ways to decrease pregnancy related backaches and cramps. They love to use a nonmedical treatment that involves no harm to the baby and their health.

5. Pain Relief Mechanisms with a Heating Pad

Heating pad for backache can help provide relief through several mechanisms:

  1. Salt heat therapy expands the blood veins of the muscles encompassing the lumbar spine. Accordingly, the stream of oxygen and supplements increases to the muscles, in this way, it cures the harmed tissues.
  2. The heat stimulates the skin sensory receptors, and therefore, the hurting and discomfort signals from the lower back are not transmitted to the brain, which to some degree facilitate in easing the torment.
  3. The application of heat supports extending the delicate tissues around the spine, including muscles, fibrous bands, and connective tissues. Heat therapy reduces stiffness and avoids additional damage to the muscle, promoting better flexibility and overall comfort. Most noteworthy, flexibility is significant for a healthy and stable body.

6. References

The Harmful Effects of Positive Ions on The Body