- strained muscles or ligaments
- a muscle spasm
- muscle tension
- damaged disks
- injuries, fractures, or falls
These activities can lead to strains or spasms:
- lifting things improperly
- making abrupt and awkward movements
- lifting things that are too heavy
2. Movement and posture
Lower back pain can also result from some everyday activities with poor posture.
- Sleeping on mattresses that are not suitable for the body and keep the spine straight
- Tension in muscles
- Bending awkwardly or for long periods
- Pushing, lifting, pulling, or carrying something
- Straining the neck forward a lot when driving or using a computer
- Standing or sitting for long periods of time
- Long driving sessions without taking a break
- Coughing or sneezing
3. Structural problems
Structural problems like:
- Ruptured disks: Each vertebra in the spine is cushioned by disks. Increase in pressure on a nerve, and back pain are results of ruptured disks
- Bulging disks: Just like ruptured disks, a bulging disk can result in more pressure on a nerve.
- Sciatica: A sharp and shooting pain that travels through the buttock down the back of the leg. It is caused by a bulging or herniated disk pressing against a nerve.
- Arthritis: Osteoarthritis causes problems with the joints in the hips, lower back, and other places. In some cases, the space around the spinal cord gets narrow. This is called spinal stenosis.
- Abnormal curvature of the spine: If the spine curves in an unusual way, it results in back pain. Scoliosis, in which the spine curves to the side is an example.
Some medical conditions can lead to lower back pain.
- Cauda equina syndrome: This is a bundle of spinal nerve roots. They arise from the lower end of the spinal cord. Symptoms include a dull pain in the upper buttocks and lower back, as well as numbness in the genitalia, buttocks, and thighs.
- Cancer of the spine: If a tumor on the spine may press against a nerve. This results in back pain.
- Infection of the spine
- Other infections: Bladder, pelvic inflammatory disease, or kidney infections may also result in back pain.
- Sleep disorders: Individuals with sleep disorders may experience lower back pain, compared with others who do not have sleep disorders.
- Shingles: This is an infection that can affect the nerves. It may lead to back pain. However, it depends on the nerves affected.
These factors are linked to a higher risk of developing low back pain:
- Occupational activities
- Sedentary lifestyle
- Poor physical fitness
- Older age
- Obesity and excess weight
- Strenuous physical exercise/work (if done incorrectly).
- Genetic factors
- Medical conditions, such as arthritis and cancer
Lower back pain tends to be more common in women than in men. This is possibly due to hormonal factors. Stress, mood disorders, and anxiety have also been linked to back pain.
The main symptom of back pain is a pain anywhere in the back, and sometimes all the way down to the buttocks and legs. However, other symptoms include weight loss, pain down the legs and reaches down the knees, urinary incontinence, numbness around the buttocks, anus, and genitals, inflammation, and swelling around.
Some other symptoms include:
- difficulty urinating
- fecal incontinence, or loss of control over bowel movements
- numbness around the genitals, anus, and buttocks.
However, these symptoms do not always mean it is from lower back pain.
When to see a doctor
You should seek medical help if you experience any numbness or tingling (in leg and feet), or if you have back pain that does not improve with rest. Also, see a doctor after a serious fall or injury.
A doctor will usually be able to diagnose back pain after carrying out a physical examination and asking about symptoms.
An image scan and other tests may be required where:
- back pain is seen to result from an injury
- there may be an underlying cause that needs treatment
- the pain persists over a long period of time
An X-ray and MRI can give information about the state of the soft tissues in the back.
- X-rays can reveal the alignment of the bones and detect signs of arthritis and or broken bones. However, they may not reveal damage to the muscles, nerves, spinal cord, or disks.
- MRI or CT scans can reveal herniated disks or problems with tendons, tissue, nerves, blood vessels, ligaments, muscles, and bones.
- Bone scans can detect compression or bone tumors fractures caused by osteoporosis.
- Electromyography or EMG measures the electrical impulses produced by nerves in response to muscles. This can confirm compression in nerve, which may occur with a herniated disk or spinal stenosis.
Proper Lower Back Postures
To relieve yourself of back pains and correct bad back postures, you should know and practice proper lower back postures.
Proper Lower Back Posture For Standing
- Stand with most of your weight on the balls of the feet, not with weight on the heels
- Keep your feet slightly apart, about shoulder-width
- Let your arms hang naturally down by the sides of your body
- Avoid locking your knees
- Tuck your chin in a little to keep the head level
- Be sure your head is square on top of the spine, not pushed out forward
- Stand straight and tall, with your shoulders upright
- If standing for a long period of time, shift weight from one of your foot to the other, or rock from heels to toes.
- Stand against a wall with your shoulders and bottom touching wall. In this position, the back of the head should also touch the wall – if it does not, the head is carried too far forward (anterior head carriage).
Proper Lower Back Posture For Walking
- Stand up straight with feet together with a comfortable space apart. Toes should be pointed forward, but if a slight angle is acceptable.
- Imagine a string attached to the top of the head. Feel it lift you up from your hips so you are tall and straight. Do not lean backward or forward.
- Don’t arch the back.
- Suck in your stomach slightly. This engages your core muscles. Furthermore, this will help maintain proper posture while walking.
- Tuck in your buttocks by rotating your hip forward slightly. This keeps you from leaning forward.
- Your eyes should focus 20 feet ahead of you. Your head follows where your eyes are looking.
- Keep chin parallel to the ground. This probably will already be corrected by looking 20 feet ahead of you. However, take a moment to check that your chin isn’t tilted either up or down. Walking with the head down (like when you’re checking your mobile phone) puts a strain on your neck, also as does craning your neck backward.
- Shrug your shoulders and let them relax, with your shoulders slightly back. This will help relieve the tension so many people carry in our shoulders. It will also set your position for using arm motion.
Proper Lower Back Posture For Sitting
- Sit at the tip of your chair and slouch completely.
- Draw yourself up and accentuate the curve of your back as far as possible. Hold for a few seconds.
- Release the position slightly (about 10 degrees). This is a good sitting posture.
- Sit in a high-back, firm chair with armrests. Sitting in a soft couch or chair will tend to make you round your back and won’t support the curve of your back.
- At work, adjust your chair height and work station so you can sit up close to your work and tilt it up at you. Rest your elbows and arms on your chair or desk, keeping your shoulders relaxed.
- When sitting in a chair that rolls and pivots, don’t twist at the waist while sitting. Instead, turn your whole body.
- When standing up from a sitting position, move to the front of the seat of your chair. Stand up by straightening your legs. Avoid bending forward at your waist. Immediately stretch your back by doing 10 standing backbends.
Proper Lower Back Posture For Sleeping
- A relatively firm mattress is generally best for proper back support, although individual preference is very important
- Sleeping on the side or back is usually more comfortable for the back than sleeping on the stomach
- Use a pillow to provide proper support and alignment for the head and shoulders
- Consider putting a rolled-up towel under the neck and a pillow under the knees to better support the spine
- If sleeping on the side, a relatively flat pillow placed between the legs will help keep the spine aligned and straight.
The following above ensure proper lower back posture.