Low back pain (LBP) is the second most common complaint heard by primary care physicians in the US. Approximately 85-percent of the US population has experienced LBP at least once in their lifetime. Most episodes of LBP occur in the lumbar, or waist, region of the spine, which supports most of the weight of the upper body. It is composed of five vertebrae, or backbones (L1-L5). Symptoms requiring urgent evaluation of LBP include loss of bowel or bladder function, leg weakness, and fever. Fortunately, most cases of LBP, regardless of cause, resolve in two to four weeks. Twelve causes of LBP include…
1. Sprains and Strains
Sprains and strains account for the majority (70-percent) of acute LBP (lasting two to four weeks). A sprain represents a stretching or tearing of ligaments, while a strain represents a stretching or tearing of muscle or tendon. Both can occur as a result of improper lifting or simply lifting an object that is too heavy.
Treatment of sprains or strains is conservative (non-surgical) and may include over-the-counter (OTC) pain relievers (acetaminophen, ibuprofen, or naproxen), muscle relaxers, bed rest, and short-term use (less than two weeks) of narcotic pain relievers, or opioids. Bed rest is debatable, as studies have shown more than a day or two can actually make pain worse.