If warmer spring weather lures you outside for heavy yard work, now's a good time to learn about how to prevent and treat low back pain. Four out of every five people have had lower back pain at one time or another. With symptoms ranging from a dull ache to absolute agony, lower back pain can put your life on hold. In fact, it's second only to the common cold in causing missed work days for adults under age 45.
Most low back pain clears up in a few days or weeks with a combination of rest, appropriate exercise, and over-the-counter pain medicines. But pain that persists for more than three months-chronic back pain-is more difficult to treat, in part because there are many different possible causes.
The lower, or lumbar, spine is a complex structure made up of powerful muscles, ligaments, bones, and joints. It provides the strength for standing, walking, lifting and other activities, and allows the body to turn, twist, and bend.
Back pain can be caused by a number of things, from sports injuries and other damage to simple wear and tear. If muscles are poorly conditioned or overworked, they are more easily strained. Someone who works all week at a desk, for example, can strain their back muscles doing heavy yard work on the weekend. Likewise, if the ligaments that help stabilize the low back are weak from inactivity or stiff from overuse, a sudden wrenching movement can cause a ligament sprain.
Ageing can also bring low back pain. Bones lose strength over time. In someone with osteoporosis , the bones of the lumbar vertebrae can break or compress in a fall or even during some everyday activities. Arthritis can inflame joints, causing pain and stiffness. And "slipped disks," in which the rubbery cartilage between disks bulge outward, can press against the spinal nerves to cause pain.
Keeping your back healthy is the best way to prevent low back injury. There are several practical things you can do:
If you've hurt your back:
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