Low Back Pain

Low back pain is experienced by most people at some time, and in most cases, it settles down. The pain is usually caused by an injury to the muscles and/or the other soft tissues. At times, the pain can be severe, and this is caused by muscle spasm.

It is common to feel pain in the buttocks or leg. The problem is made worse by certain body positions, and by anxiety and stress.

Generally, x-rays are not helpful because the problem is in the tissues that do not show up on plain x-rays.

The following measure are helpful for most low back problems:

For actue pain, you should rest on a firm mattress in a comfortable position. This may be on your back with a pillow under the knees, or on your side with a pillow between your legs. Bed rest for more than two days is not helpful usually.

Pain medication: Use Aspirin® or Tylenol®, Aspirin® with codeine, Tylenol® with codeine, or Ibuprofen. Your doctor may also prescribe something else.

Ice packs can be used for the first 12-24 hours after acute injury, for 20 minutes every 2 to 4 hours. After this, apply heat (a heating pad or hot bath) 2 to 3 times a day. Massaging the back with a liniment may also help.

EXERCISES: Start these when you are having less pain:

Pelvic Tilt: Tighten your abdominal muscles, flatten your back into the bed, and draw in your navel. Your pelvis will tilt upward. Tighten your buttocks, and hold to the count of five. Repeat this 5 times at 4 to 5 times a day.

Lie on your stomach: Get into the push-up position. Keeping your pelvis on the bed, do a push-up gently at first (if necessary, lean on your elbows), then completely straighten the elbows so that the low back is bent backward. Relax your low back. Repeat 4 to 5 times a day. Stop if this makes any pain in your leg or buttock worse.

Knees to Chest: Lie on your back, knees bent, feet on the floor (or bed). Bring one knee to your chest, hold for 10 seconds, then lower. Now do the same with the other knee. Repeat 5 times, 4 to 5 times a day. As your pain improves, bring both knees to your chest and hold for 10 seconds, then lower. Repeat 4 to 5 times a day.

Rock: Roll onto your back. Bring your knees to your chest, place hands at the back of your thighs or in front of your knees, and rock back and forth. Repeat 4 to 5 times a day.

Now start mobilizing; pay particular attention to posture.

KEEP THE NATURAL HOLLOW IN YOUR BACK at all times … while lifting, sitting and driving. An orthopaedic office chair or Obus Forme may be of benefit.

As your back improves, get into a simple, regular exercise program for your back in order to avoid recurrences. The key is posture, flexibility and strengthening.

Get advice from your own doctor or a physiotherapist.

See a doctor immediately if …

  • you develop incontinence of stool
  • you have problems urinating
  • you develop weakness of both legs