Low Back Pain
Low back pain is pain and stiffness in the small of the back.
With low back pain, pain may also occur in the buttocks or legs. Simple
exercises and good posture can help most cases of low back pain. In a few cases,
medications, physical therapy or surgery may be needed.
The spine is made up of ring-like bones called vertebrae. The
vertebrae are stacked on top of each other and form a strong column that keeps
the head and body standing up. Between each vertebra is a jelly-like disk that
has a tough outside edge. These disks are like cushions between the vertebrae.
Muscles and tissues hold vertebrae in the right place. The lower back consists
of five vertebrae. These vertebrae make up the inward curve of the lower back.
What causes low back pain?
The most common cause of low back pain is overstretched or injured muscles that
support the lower back. Muscles and connective tissues can become hurt from
lifting or carrying heavy objects incorrectly. Muscles in the back can also
become weak from a lack of exercise. Exercises to make the muscles in the back
and abdomen strong can lessen pain. Low back pain can also be caused by:
- Bad posture
- Standing or sitting in the same place for a long time
- "Slipped" disk; a "slipped" disk is when a disk between vertebrae bulges
past the bones and presses against a nerve.
- Being very overweight
- Osteoporosis (thinning of bone)
- Osteoarthritis, which is the break down of tissues or bones of the joint
- Fibromyalgia, which is an illness that causes achy, tender muscles; the
person with fibromyalgia may also sleep poorly, have headaches, and often
- Serious illnesses such as cancer, infection, or another illness can
cause low back pain, but this is rare
How is low back pain treated?
Many times, low back pain can be helped by exercise and keeping good posture
while sitting, standing, and sleeping. You can also learn ways to protect your
back when bending, lifting, and exercising. People who are overweight might
lessen low back pain by losing weight.
What can I do if I have low back pain?
- If you stand in the same place for a long time, rest one foot on a low
stool. While working in the kitchen, open the cabinet under the sink and
rest your foot on the inside of the cabinet. Change feet every 5 to 15
- Keep good posture by standing with your head up, shoulders straight,
chest forward, weight balanced evenly on both feet, and hips tucked in.
- Make sure your chair has good lower back support. The back of the chair
should be curved to give support where the small of the back meets the
- Keep your knees a little higher than your hips by using a foot rest or
- Don't twist at the waist while sitting. Instead, turn your whole body.
- Sleep on your side with your knees bent. You can also put a pillow
between your knees.
- Try not to sleep on your stomach.
- If you sleep on your back, put pillows under your knees and a small
pillow under the small of your back.
- Before you lift a heavy object, get a firm footing. Bend your knees to
lower yourself to the level of the object, keeping your lower back straight.
Tighten your stomach muscles and lift the object using your leg muscles.
Don't jerk the object up to your body. Never bend from the waist with your
- If you are lifting an object from a table, slide it to the edge of the
table so that you can hold it close to your body. Bend your knees so that
you are close to the object. Use your legs to lift the object and come to a
- Avoid lifting heavy objects above waist level.
- Hold packages close to your body with your arms bent.
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