Did you know that more than 80% of U.S. residents will experience low back pain at some point in their lives?  A study done in 2009 noted that the cost of lower back pain is estimated at more than $100 billion a year.

Research is still underway to determine why there is an increase in the number of people with lower back pain, but since cases and cost are rising each year, we can assume that changes need to be made to treatment plans. Countless lower back pain patients are too-quickly diagnosed and put under the knife for a back surgery that may make them worse.

More often than not, invasive surgery is not necessary.  At OSA, it’s the last resort.  We prefer a holistic regimen with physical therapy, home exercises, nutritional guidance, health education, and skills development to effectively self-manage, reduce pain, and increase mobility.  For this article, we’ll start with health education.

Why Health Education is so Important

As doctors, we can only do so much for our patients.  You must play an active role in your health if you wish to reach your mobility goals.  This means that you’ll likely need to make changes to your behaviors, such as:

  • Changing your diet; you are what you eat
  • Following the treatment plan outlined by your doctor and physical therapist
  • Managing your stress
  • Quitting smoking

As a patient, your ability to obtain, process, and understand information about your injury or condition is called health literacy.  Only about 12% of American adults have advanced health literacy, and 36% have below basic health literacy.  Lower health literacy leads to higher anxiety, heightened fear, and low confidence in your ability to manage your condition or pain. This leads to non-compliance, overuse of the healthcare system, and health decline.

To get your life back to normal, you need to understand your condition so that you can make well-informed decisions about your health.  Improving your health literacy will help stay you out of the office, off the operating table, and away from the emergency room.


Causes of Lower Back Pain


One of the most common complaints we see is lower back pain while sitting or standing.  Sometimes, they have pain that never goes away, and other times, the pain is more specific, such as in the lower left back.

left-lower-back-pain-osaLower left back pain may be caused by:

  • Kidney infection, which is usually accompanied by fever, nausea, vomiting, and stinging during The pain generally worsens with pressure or movement.
  • Kidney stones cause severe pain with urination, difficulty initiating a stream (but always feeling like you have to go), blood in the urine, nausea and
  • In women, fibroids or endometriosis may cause lower left back pain.
    • Fibroids are small masses inside the uterus, typically not threatening. This condition is usually associated with frequent urination and pain on intercourse.
    • Endometriosis means there is a lot of extra tissue growing outside the uterus. The pain is described as a sharp, stabbing, and sporadic. It’s often paired with stomach pain, tiredness, and severe pain during menstruation.
  • Pregnancy
  • Ulcerative colitis (also called inflammatory bowel disease).
  • Pancreatitis pain is described as dull and worse after eating high-fat foods.

The most common cause of general lower back pain is a sprain or strain.  Frequently, this is caused by sudden movement, lifting heavy objects, poor posture, or accidents.

Strains happen when the back muscles and ligaments get stretched too far.  They tear and lead to pain, stiffness, and muscle spasms in the back.  It’s usually treated with rest, ice/heat application, and physical therapy.  NSAIDs are sometimes used for severe pain.

Other lower back pain causes include:

  • Sciatica
  • Disk injury, especially herniated disks
  • Spinal stenosis
  • Scoliosis, lordosis, and kyphosis
  • Cancer of the spine

Treatments for Lower Back Pain

Treatments will vary depending on your needs and preferences.  It may include a combination of the following:

  • Medical intervention like appliances and medications
  • Physical therapy
  • Massage
  • Back and spinal manipulation
  • Home care/self-care regimen
  • Non-invasive surgery like spinal injections (cortisone shots)
  • Invasive surgery like discectomy or spinal fusion

We’ll be talking more about these treatments in the future.  Jump to the top of this screen to subscribe to our head-to-toe blog and get notifications when we post new articles.

When to See a Doctor

Acute back pain (sudden onset) will usually get better on its own with rest, ice and heat, stretching, and over-the-counter pain medication. Don’t lay in bed for more than two days or you risk getting worse.

If you’re still in pain after a week of taking it easy, schedule a doctor’s appointment.  You’ll want to contact your doctor if your lower back pain is causing:

  • Weakness, numbness, or tingling in one or both legs
  • Unintended weight loss
  • Redness or swelling in the back
  • Intense, constant discomfort, especially at night or while lying down
  • Spreading or radiating pain down the leg and below the knee

Your back pain is an emergency if:

  • It’s accompanied by fever
  • It’s causing bladder or bowel control problems
  • You’ve been in a car accident, suffered a personal injury or fall, or experienced a sports injury

In these cases, go to the emergency room or dial 9-1-1.

Don’t ignore your lower back pain. You may end up getting worse. Learn what you can about your injury by doing good research and consulting with an orthopedic specialist or physical therapist.  In mild cases, back pain will heal on its own, but be sure you know the difference between mild and serious, acute and chronic.  Be honest when judging your pain levels.

Share with others: