Lower back pain is one of the most common ailments and affects about 60 to 80 percent of the adult population in the United States, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center. Chronic back pain -- back pain that lasts more than three months -- may be accompanied by muscle pain and stiffness that can become debilitating if left untreated. Only a qualified healthcare provider can determine the proper treatment for your condition.
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Chronic lower-back pain may begin as acute lower-back pain with a sudden event, such as a fall or accident, or it may come from doing things improperly -- like lifting, standing or any repetitive movement -- over a period. Other possible causes include degenerative disc disease, fibromyalgia, rheumatoid arthritis, herniated disc, osteoporosis, scoliosis or kyphosis, strain or tears in the supporting ligaments or muscles, and poor posture. Your chances of experiencing muscle pain and stiffness, along with back pain, are increased if you are overweight, smoke, do not exercise, or if you are older than 30 years of age.
Chronic low back pain's intensity can vary from mild and hardly noticeable to extreme and debilitating. Symptoms depend on the cause, but generally include muscle pain and spasms, morning stiffness, difficulty standing after sitting for a while, and tenderness in your lower back. If your pain comes from a herniated disc or an injury involving the sciatic nerve, you may also experience pain, tingling or weakness in your legs and feet.
Treatment of chronic low back pain varies with the cause. Pain management may include physical therapy, wearing a back brace for extra support, cold and heat therapies or massage therapy for sore and stiff muscles. Your healthcare provider may recommend medications including non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, pain medicine, anticonvulsants or antidepressants. If you have a herniated disc or a condition causing nerve damage, surgical options may be necessary and include a discectomy, laminectomy, spinal fusion or foraminotomy.
Prevention and Care
Recommendations from the Cleveland Clinic for reducing and preventing back pain include shifting your weight from one foot to the other every five to 15 minutes, if standing in the same place, and maintaining good posture, with your shoulders straight and head up. Also, sit in chairs with lower back support, sleep on your side and bend your knees, and lift heavy objects by bending your knees and keeping your back straight. Strengthen your muscles and keep your body in shape by exercising according to your doctor's evaluation of your condition and eating a well balanced, low-fat diet with plenty of vegetables, whole grains and fruits.