Low Back Pain – A Quick Guide

Low back pain is a common disorder affecting millions of individuals annually. It is a common musculoskeletal disorder that affects the lumbar segment of the spine, which is the lowest part of the back just above your buttocks. It is one of the most common causes of missing work, and can affect anyone of any age, race, or sex. It is one of the top 10 reasons patients seek care from a doctor.

Low back pain is typically classified as either acute or chronic. Low back pain is often accompanied by stiffness and difficulty with normal movement, muscle spasms, and pain that becomes worse with any type of straining. If it is particularly bad it may cause pain down the back of your leg, which is called sciatica.

Chronic Back Pain

Chronic low-back pain is a very common problem for which there is currently no universally effective treatment. Chronic back pain is generally defined as pain that persists for more than three months. Chronic pain is much less common than acute pain. It usually has an insidious onset, occurring over a long period of time. It can also occur in people whose work involves heavy lifting, bending, and long periods of standing on a daily basis. It also may originate from an injury, disease or stresses on different structures of the body such as osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, degeneration of the discs between the vertebrae, or a spinal disc herniation, a vertebral fracture (caused by osteoporosis), or rarely, a tumor (including cancer) or infection. Chronic low back pain can be shooting, stabbing or localised in nature. It can also be referred from another part of the body.

Acute Back Pain

Acute pain is the most common type of back pain. Acute back pain is short term, generally lasting from a few days to a few weeks. Acute pain comes on quickly and often leaves just as quickly. The commonest reasons for acute lower back pain are damaged muscles, ligaments and tendons in the lower back. Acute back pain can also be caused by kidney stones, pelvic inflammation and even some bowel conditions like constipation, inflammatory bowel disease or diverticulitis may have some back pain associated with it. These are much less common.

Back Pain Symptoms

Symptoms of low back pain depend upon the cause of the pain. Damage to muscles and ligaments causes pain, back muscle spasm, pain on walking, difficulty twisting, stiffness and sometimes pain worse on one side rather than the other.
Pain caused by nerve irritation often also causes sciatica. Sciatica is pain down the leg or legs caused by irritation to the sciatic nerve in your back. It is often caused by disc problems, arthritis and severe muscle damage and spasm.


Treatment for back pain generally depends on what kind of pain you experience: acute or chronic. Treatment options range from basic rest but only for 24 hours, ice or heat and gradually resuming activity to medication, exercise, physical therapy and acupuncture. Using trans-cutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS ) with both acute and chronic pain can speed recovery and reduce pain. Acupuncture like TENS is excellent for treating muscle spasms and the trigger points often found in back muscles.

Treatments for chronic back pain can vary greatly depending on the type and source of the pain. Many sufferers find TENS a great help in reducing symptoms. If the problems persist an operation is often required to relieve the pressure on the disc and reduce nerve irritation.


Having used TENS to reduce pain exercises that increase balance and strength can decrease your risk of further back pain. Exercises such as Tai Chi, yoga or any weight-bearing exercise that challenges your balance are good ones to try. String back and abdominal muscles can lessen pain. Exercises to reduce low back pain are not complicated and can be done at home without any special equipment.

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