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Lumbar Pain

  • What is Lumbar Pain?

    Back pain is common and usually lasts for a short time. There are steps a person can take to ease the symptoms and prevent future problems. The most common type of back pain is pain in the lower back (lumbar spine) as this area bears the stress of the body weight throughout the day.

    Many have lower back pain at some point in their lives, but few are caused by a chronic, medical problem. Lower back pain often clears within 2 – 6 weeks, and it can be separated into 2 categories:

    • Mechanical pain, which is caused by wear and tear (degeneration) in parts of the lumbar spine
    • Neurogenic pain, which occurs when spinal nerves are swollen, squeezed or pinched
  • There are many causes of back pain, and they can be grouped according to the source of pain. Common causes of back pain include:

    • Arthritis
    • Bone tumour
    • Fracture
    • Irritation of a nerve root
    • Ligament injury
    • Muscle strain or injury
    • Other non-spinal causes (eg. viral infections, kidney stones or gynaecological problems in women)
    • Poor posture
    • Slipped disc
    • Spinal stenosis (narrowing of the spinal canal)
    • Spine curvatures (scoliosis or kyphosis)
    • Trauma (injury)
  • Symptoms vary, depending on which structures are affected. Some of the more common symptoms are:

    • Back stiffness and reduced range of movement
    • Muscle weakness in the hip, thigh, leg or foot
    • Pain spreading from the buttock to the foot
    • Pain spreading into the buttocks and thighs
    • Sensory changes (numbness, prickling or tingling) in the leg, foot or toes

    Rarely, symptoms involve changes in bowel or bladder function, ie. from a large disc herniation that presses on the nerves leading to the bowels or bladder.

  • Most get better with no treatment. It is best to stay active and to return to normal activities as soon as possible. The main goal of treatment is to control the pain, some of the following treatments may be used:

    • Back brace, usually for 2 – 4 days, to support a problematic disc
    • Bed rest, usually for no more than 2 days, to rest the sore discs and nerves
    • Medication to help with sleep and to control pain, swelling and muscle spasm (cramp)
    • Physiotherapy to relieve pain, improve back movement and maintain a healthy posture
    • Spinal injection to relieve pain

    Surgery is usually only done if severe pain does not improve. Types of surgery include:

    • Laminectomy to relieve pressure on the spinal nerves
    • Discectomy to remove a portion of the disc that is pressing on the nerve root
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