Low back pain: types of back pain, its possible causes and treatment

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Low back pain, or lumbago, is so common that many people don’t even notice it most of the time. However, in some cases it can become unbearable and disabling; fortunately, there are measures to prevent and alleviate most episodes.

Lumbalgia is the technical name for pain in the lumbar area of the spine, corresponding to the lower back. It can originate from nerve roots, muscles, ligaments, fascial (connective) structures, the vertebrae themselves and the intervertebral discs, and more rarely from organs housed in the abdominal cavity.

It can often be very complicated to identify the causes, although it is rarely not possible. In this regard, a thorough evaluation is usually necessary, taking into account mechanical, oncological, organic, neurological possibilities….

The most common, however, are usually the first ones; reasons such as the repeated adoption of bad postures (increasingly prevalent as we spend a good part of the day sitting), overexertion, the existence of previous injuries and natural aging processes are usually behind most cases.

Low back pain is, in itself, a symptom. Therefore, a distinction should be made between various types of low back pain, since they may indicate different underlying causes and disorders.

Specifically, low back pain is classified into three types, depending on how it occurs and the duration of the episode.

  • The first of these is acute low back pain. This name is given to low back pain that occurs immediately after trauma or exertion and lasts less than six weeks.
  • The second is subacute low back pain, which appears some time after the exertion or trauma and lasts approximately six to twelve weeks.
  • The third is chronic low back pain, which is of insidious (gradual) evolution, often without an easily identifiable trigger and with a duration of no less than twelve weeks.

The treatment of low back pain will depend to a great extent on the cause that is provoking it. Thus, for example, if it derives from the adoption of bad postures, it will be necessary to correct these habits to achieve complete remission; and traumatic injuries may require surgery, immobilization or other methods. Similarly, organ disorders or cancers will be treated specifically according to their nature.

Beyond this approach, there are some methods that can achieve some relief from low back pain in the short, medium and long term. Along these lines, the administration of analgesics (especially anti-inflammatory drugs) and muscle relaxants or, in particularly severe cases, opioid drugs is common.

On the other hand, an active lifestyle that avoids bed rest can often minimize low back pain, as can certain supervised exercises, some chiropractic manipulations, physiotherapy, massages and the application of heat.

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