What are we talking about when we talk about lower back pain?
Lower back pain is a constellation of symptoms that are usually described as acute and reversible.
- injury (muscular, ligament, joint and/or discal);
- inflammatory phenomena.
Let us say a few words about the last item on the list to dispel a negative myth. When we hear talk of inflammation, a warning bell goes off immediately, and it can evoke feelings of stress. Today we want to tell you that the inflammatory processes come in peace, they are our friends, in a certain sense and they are put in place to make our body react by giving way to the healing process.
After the inflammatory phase, acute lumbar pain is expected to recover within approximately 30 days. It goes without saying that healing does not happen by itself, as if by magic, but we must implement a series of measures that involve therapy in the strict sense but also, and above all, our lifestyle. We will see them later.
- previous lower back pain;
- low level of physical activity;
- being overweight;
We usually always focus on physical factors, taking it for granted that if we suffer from back pain the cause is a fracture, tissue damage or muscle tear. But this is not always the case. In fact, an important part of risk factors is psychological and social. One factor above all and this is the stress that is often added in the lumbar and cervical areas. Let's think about how many times we "curl" our shoulders, contracting them while we react to tensions, to nervousness. We multiply this situation several times a day, every day and understand the impact of psychological factors on our back.
Only 20% of lower back pain is caused by a problem specific to the spinal column. The remaining 80% is instead originated by non-specific factors such as incorrect postures and movements, stress, poor fitness and excess weight.
Lower back pain: better known symptoms
In 2001, a study tried to rationalise the scenario by classifying possible diagnoses into three large groups. Let's leave out what concerns visceral problems (kidney disease, aneurysm, endometriosis...) and focus on the other two groups that divide the prognosis according to mechanical and not mechanical problems. The first group is the master because 97% of lumbago can be traced back to it while only 1% is caused by non-mechanical problems (tumors, infections, rheumatic inflammations).
When should diagnostic tests be carried out?
- sudden intestinal changes or difficulty of bladder control with associated numbness of the inguinal area;
- infection: prolonged fever, weak immune system;
- fractures associated with severe pain immediately after a road accident or fall, or in the presence of osteoporosis;
- sudden weight loss: diagnosis of prostate, breast and lung cancer with constant pain for weeks even in a relaxed position or significant weight loss in a short time;
- rheumatic inflammation and ankylosing spondylitis: morning pain and stiffness already at a young age (15-35 years) which improves with movement.
If these signs do not appear, it is not necessary to carry out further diagnostic examinations in the first four weeks. Also because we remember that in the vast majority of cases the lumbago is given by skeletal muscle problems and therefore should be treated at the level of symptoms.
How to Prevent and Treat Lower back pain
Antiinflammatory and rest are not the cure.
We know that lumbago can be very debilitating and therefore it is advisable to take anti-inflammatories but only in the acute phase, we should not abuse these drugs which, among other things, are particularly harmful to our stomach. In addition, eliminating pain is not so healthy, we’ll explain this better: we emphasized above how the painful sensations are our first alarm bells along with inflammatory phenomena, we need to understand that something is wrong. If we eliminate these warnings altogether, we risk causing further damage to the lumbar area because we resume all our activities without taking the necessary precautions. So you can take anti-inflammatory drugs but do so with caution and do not consider them the cure. Rather as a means to return to exercise.
Prevention in this case is essential to keep low back pain out for as long as possible. Sometimes it takes very little to prevent back pain. In most cases, 10 minutes of exercise per day is enough to significantly improve the health of your spine. Other times the simple elimination of risk factors (obesity, stress, smoking, incorrect posture) allows to solve the problem at the root or at least to slow down its reappearance. Prevention therefore involves taking on a healthy, wellness lifestyle. It is much more difficult to change one's lifestyle than to take an anti-inflammatory, but the long-term benefits will prove us right.