The lumbar spine is responsible for locomotion and providing support to the upper body. It is made up of a complex group of muscles whose functions are to flex, extend and rotate the back.
Aside from muscles, there are roots of nerves originating from the lumbar vertebrae that receive sensations from the trunk and lower limbs and innervate the muscle.
Acute lower back pain is a type of back pain that typically lasts up to 6 weeks from its sudden onset. In most cases, it is nonspecific because its underlying cause is never found. Acute lower back pain treatment at home is easy depending on the type. It is classified according to its etiology as; mechanical, non-mechanical or referred pain.
Mechanical causes of acute lower back pain are because of acute trauma. It accounts for the majority of the acute lower back pain. It may also be cumulative when there were recurrent traumatic events in the past.
Examples of these causes are; degenerative vertebral discs, compressed nerve roots, herniated vertebral discs and musculoskeletal strains on the back, fracture of the spine, muscle spasms and ruptured or herniated vertebral discs.
Non-mechanical causes of lower back pain are those secondary to other diseases. They include; cancers of the spine, spondylarthrosis, and acute bone infections.
Referred lower back pain refers to pain originating from other areas radiating to the back. The origin may be from kidney infections, kidney stones, gallstones or even acute pancreatitis.
Acute lower back pain typically presents with sudden onset of pain in the lower back. The pain is aggravated by twisting, lifting or bending forward. The severity of the pain is subjective, but in most cases, it is dull or mild. Acute lower back pain treatment at home can be done via the following ways:
1. Heat and ice therapy
Applying heat increases blood flow and circulation to the muscles. This is because heat causes dilatation of blood vessels, therefore, increasing the delivery of oxygen and nutrients to nourish the muscle. Ice, on the other hand, is beneficial when the underlying cause is inflammatory. The cooling sensation provides relief to aching muscles.
Apply heat in the form of warm baths, hot water bottles, electric heating pads or chemical heat wraps. Be careful when applying heat or ice as extreme heat can cause burn while ice can numb the skin killing cells.
2. Take painkillers
There are a variety of power over the counter medications. These can temporarily relieve lower back pain. The medications recommended are NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) such as aspirin, naproxen, and diclofenac but are not so beneficial because they offer relief temporarily.
Paracetamol is also another drug that can be used and in comparison, to NSAIDs, it not as effective for treating acute episodes. When taking these medications by yourself be wary of the side effects and limit the doses.
NSAIDs are one of the causes of gastric ulcers when taken on an empty stomach, but paracetamol does not. Large doses of paracetamol can lead to acute liver toxicity, therefore, do not exceed the recommended doses. Apart from the two, topical pain rubs, and ointments are available. Most work by blocking the transmission of pain signals thereby numbing the area.
3. Stretching and exercising
Stretching and exercising the back is particularly beneficial to mild acute lower back pains. This is because they reduce tension in the muscles and ligaments supporting the back, improve flexibility and range of mobility. They also alleviate stress. Keep in mind that trying to stretch an injured back may aggravate the condition or injury.
Do not force yourself to do difficult postures. Take your time when stretching by moving slowly and holding the postures for an adequate amount of time. Also, wear loosely fitted clothing that will not limit your mobility and repeat the exercise on both sides of the body.
4. Take anti-inflammatory supplements
Examples of these include omega 3 fatty acids. These are long chain fatty acids and potent anti-inflammatory agents that available as supplements in various formulations.
They are naturally present in oily fish like salmon, herring, mackerel, and sardines. Be careful when taking these supplements because there is a recommended daily allowance that when exceeded may result in some side effects. Some of these side effects are increased the risk of bleeding and other gastrointestinal effects.
In addition to that, MSM (methylsulfonylmethane) is a sulfur-containing compound that may reduce oxidative stress and inflammation. Its high sulfur content aids in rebuilding cartilage and reducing pain. It is safe for consumption and available in the market as supplements in combination with glucosamine and chondroitin.
5. Get enough sleep and relax
It may be difficult remaining positive when you are in pain. Psychogenic back pain is a type of back pain that has no organic or physical cause. People with this condition experience similar symptoms as those with actual acute lower back pain. Staying positive and avoiding stress may cure this type of back pain without requiring any other form of treatment.
Acute lower back pain is a common condition that can be managed easily.
The goal of treatment is to restore normal function and reduce pain. Most of the cases present with mild pain that resolves after a few days. It is important to reassure people that it is treatable and that acute lower back pain treatment at home is possible.