As many as 8 out of 10 adults will experience back pain in their lifetime, and most of them will feel it in their lower back. When we consider that our lower back bears the brunt of our body weight, and that our back is made up of many vertebrae, a few discs to absorb shock, several major nerves and joints that allow for movement of the spine, stacked on top of each other, this statistic begins to make more sense.
Back pain is either acute, appearing quickly and intensely after an accident or injury and lasting only a short while, or chronic, recurrent pain that can come seemingly out of nowhere. The direct causes of chronic back pain are rarely obvious - simple movements, arthritis, bad posture, obesity, and internal disorders can all cause our backs to ache.
It is important to try to pinpoint the cause so you can get the most appropriate type of treatment for your low back pain. Doctors often recommend medications for lower back pain relief. Both over-the-counter and prescription medicines can ease lower back pain, and Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs), which include aspirin and ibuprofen, can significantly reduce inflammation as well as back pain. Acetaminophen, available in many over-the-counter medicines, acts as an analgesic and is often used to treat acute pain. Occasionally doctors prescribe opioids or muscle relaxants for severe pain, although these can be habit-forming. Once common, doctors prescribe back surgery less often nowadays, which usually involves implanting one of several medical devices to stabilize and fuse the spine.
The medical community is now questioning the efficacy of bed rest, once thought to be essential for healing and lower back pain relief. Medical studies seem to prove just the opposite - that exercise is the real healer. Specific exercises strengthen back muscles, increase flexibility and tone, and pump fluid into back discs, alleviating soreness caused by disc dehydration. Getting up and moving or performing physical therapy can relieve back pain.
Many sufferers say they have experienced lower back pain relief through acupuncture, an ancient Chinese treatment in which needles are placed in specific points on the body. Chiropractic, whose practitioners realign the vertebrae of the spine to correct imbalances in the musculoskeletal system, provides relief for others. Whichever type of treatment one chooses, it is important to remember that there are many causes of lower back pain, and no one treatment will work for everyone.