Have you ever had low back pain? Odds are, you have. Per the World Health Organization (WHO), 60 to 70 percent of people in high-income countries will have low back pain at least once in their lives. There are many causes for low back pain, so you should always consult with your doctor to make sure it’s nothing serious. That said, there are many things you can do to better understand your pain and work to relieve it.
To start, try to notice what caused or causes your pain and what your symptoms are. Your acute (sudden and short-lasting) low back pain could be linked to poor posture; sleeping oddly; or soreness that lingers after you do too much yardwork, pilates, or other intense activity. With low back pain from these causes, your back muscles might feel tight and tender to the touch. You could also have pain when you move in a certain way or stay in the same position for too long. You may have soreness in your hip or leg, decreased motion on one side, leg weakness with long periods of movement, or pain that affects your sleep. Your symptoms can be on one or both sides.
When you observe your symptoms, look out for any signs that mean you should seek medical care ASAP. These could be signs of something deeper than simple soreness, like nerve damage. Here are some red flags that may come with low back pain:
- Numbness or tingling in your leg
- Weakness in your leg that doesn’t come from prolonged movement
- Your leg gives way while walking
- Shooting, electric, or gnawing pain that goes down your leg
- Pain that is constant and/or severe
Now for the best part: what to expect as you get better! Sometimes, back pain can go away on its own if you rest and avoid things that make your symptoms worse. Often, though, it takes special treatments to get better. These treatments include:
- Using ice or heat
- Putting on creams that numb your skin or reduce inflammation
The key to getting better from low back pain is physical therapy (PT). PT exercises that address stretching and strength are the base of recovery. When you do your PT exercises, do them with focus and good form. Also, be sure to keep doing PT exercises, even when you start to feel less pain. Though you might not think you need to, you should complete the full course of treatment to avoid getting hurt again. You may also need to switch up the types of activities you do for the short or long term to reduce symptoms and prevent reinjury.
You might wonder how long it’s going to take to recover. This can vary: sometimes, it can be a day or two. When pain sticks around, your recovery could take a couple of weeks to a few months. This process includes using the treatments we mentioned above. With a more serious issue, it could take you more than six months to get better, and you might need surgery. Make sure to follow up with a doctor if you’re having low back pain that doesn’t go away.
You’re not alone if you’re having low back pain. Though your symptoms may make you feel annoyed or upset, there are many things you can do to reduce or cure your pain. Physical therapy is the base of these treatments, and it can help you prevent other back problems in the future.