By Joy Pape, FNP-C CDE CILC
My last article in the September 2017 issue of Westview (“Get A Diagnosis!”) got responses! Writers always love to hear from their readers so thank you! On the other hand, I’m sorry to learn that so many people live with low back pain. About 80% of adults have had low back pain at some point in their lives.
Most people just want relief. They want to know the treatment that will alleviate their low back pain. Oh, if it were only that easy. To offer relief and recommend treatment, one needs to know the cause and type of pain involved. Although I cannot address those many details in this article, I’m back to provide additional insight on low back pain.
- Both men and women are equally affected by low back pain.
- Pain severity can range from a dull ache to a sharp sensation that can incapacitate you.
- Pain can develop right away after an accident or after lifting something heavy over time.
- Being inactive most of the time then overdoing it with strenuous exercise can bring on the pain.
- Low back pain can be divided into three categories:
- Acute (Short-Term): This type of pain lasts a few days to several weeks and usually resolves on its own. It is mainly caused by a disruption in the way the components of your back fit together and move.
- Subacute: This type of pain lasts between four and 12 weeks.
- Chronic: This type of pain lasts 12 weeks or longer and has many causes. In some cases, treatment completely relieves the chronic low back pain but in other cases the pain can persist. Risk factors for low back pain include, but are not limited to, the following:
- Age: The first attack of low back pain occurs between 30 and 50 years of age.
- Lack of Physical Fitness: In particular, weak abdominal muscles that don’t support the spine can contribute to low back pain.
- Weight Gain: This can put excess strain on your back.
- Genetics: Some forms of arthritis can cause immobility of the spine.
- Occupational Risk: Jobs that require heavy lifting, pushing, or pulling over time, and even sitting all day without the right support, can lead to low back pain.
Diagnosing low back pain always includes a complete medical history and physical exam but that is not always enough to get the right diagnosis. You may also require an X-ray, computerized tomography (CT scan), a myelogram, discography, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), electrodiagnostics, bone scans, an ultrasound, and/or blood tests.
Treatment for low back pain is what most of you are interested in and, once again, it goes back to my first article. It depends on the cause of YOUR low back pain. Is your pain acute or chronic? Surgery is not generally recommended unless there is evidence of worsening nerve damage and/or structural changes for which surgical procedures have been developed.
A reader also asked me a question about medications, specifically, steroids. Steroids used for pain are classified as corticosteroids. Your body produces them in the form of glucocorticoids. When taken as medication, either by mouth or injection, these steroids are synthetic and are considered anti-inflammatory drugs. They imitate the action of your body to reduce inflammation, which is actually the body’s response to injury (swelling, warmth, heat, and pain). The side effects of steroids can be mild or serious. When used in lower doses and for short periods of time, the side effects can be mild. If you are considering steroids to treat your low back pain, discuss the risks and benefits of the treatment with your health care professional.
I hope this article has been helpful and has convinced you to Get a Diagnosis! That is really the only way to obtain the information you need so that you and your health care provider can choose the right treatment for YOUR low back pain. For more information, check out this trusted source from the National Institute of Health: ninds.nih.gov/Disorders/Patient-Caregiver-Education/Fact-Sheets/Low-Back-Pain-Fact-Sheet.
Please, get a diagnosis for your low back pain so that you can ENJOY!
Joy Pape is an internationally known, board certified Family Nurse Practitioner, author, writer, and presenter. She believes that every person is an individual and deserves personalized medical and integrative care, and hope for a healthy and full life. She can be reached at (212) 933-1756 or firstname.lastname@example.org.