Low back pain

February 22, 2013

Bo Headlam MD

Contributing Columnist

Almost everyone will experience low back pain at some point in their lives. This pain can vary from mild to severe. It can be short-lived or long-lasting. However it happens, low back pain can make many everyday activities difficult to do.

There are many causes of low back pain. It sometimes occurs after a specific movement such as lifting or bending. Just getting older also plays a role in many back conditions.

As we age, our spine ages with us. Aging causes degenerative changes in the spine. These changes can start in our 30s — or even younger — and can make us prone to back pain, especially if we overdo our activities.

These aging changes, however, do not keep most people from leading productive, and generally, pain-free lives.

Back pain varies. It may be sharp or stabbing. It can be dull, achy, or feel like a “charley horse” type cramp.

Some people with low back pain may experience some of the following:

  • Back pain may be worse with bending and lifting.
  • Sitting may worsen pain.
  • Standing and walking may worsen pain.
  • Back pain comes and goes, and often follows an up and down course with good days and bad days.
  • Pain may extend from the back into the buttock or outer hip area, but not down the leg.
  • Sciatica is common with back pain. This includes buttock and leg pain, and even numbness, tingling or weakness that goes down to the foot. It is also possible to have sciatica without back pain.

Regardless of your age or symptoms, if your back pain does not get better within a few weeks, or is associated with fever, chills, or unexpected weight loss, you should call your doctor.

It may not be possible to prevent low back, hip, or knee pain. We cannot avoid the normal wear and tear on our bodies that goes along with aging. But there are things we can do to lessen the impact of low back, hip, or knee problems. Having a healthy lifestyle is a good start:

  • Exercise.
  • Combine aerobic exercise, like walking or swimming, with specific exercises to keep your muscles strong and flexible.
  • Proper Lifting.
  • Be sure to lift heavy items with your legs, not your back. Do not bend over to pick something up. Keep your back straight and bend at your knees.
  • Weight. Maintain a healthy weight. Being overweight puts added stress on your body.
  • Avoid Smoking. Both the smoke and the nicotine cause your spine to age faster than normal.
  • Proper Posture. Good posture is important for avoiding future problems. A therapist can teach you how to safely stand, sit, and lift.

Bo Headlam, MD is an Interventional Pain Medicine specialist at Southern Ohio Medical Center. He treats back pain, neck pain, headaches, and pain in all other parts of the body using injections and other pain procedures. He can be reached at 740-356-6808.