By Dr Harsh Sharma, DHMS, BHMS
Published March 27, 2015, Last updated August 10, 2018
Low back pain is also called lumbago. It is one of the most common causes of leave or absence of work all over the world. In fact low back pain is the second most common cause of a visit to a doctor, the first one being cold and cough. Low back pain here refers to pain in the bones and muscles of the lower back. When we say low back pain, we mean any area below the rib cage and above the legs.
Acute and chronic low back pain or lumbago
Depending on the duration of the pain, low back pain may be called acute or chronic. Acute low back pain is that when the pain is of recent origin ie less than 6 weeks. Chronic low back pain means the back pain that has been persisting for a prolonged period of time. Acute pain as well as chronic pain may differ in severity from patient to patient. At times excessive structural problem like disc prolapse or degeneration may cause just mild pain. In other cases a mild structural problem like a muscle spasm or a strain may cause severe back pain. The pain may be so severe in some cases that it may make any mobility almost impossible. Such a scenario may necessitate an emergency visit to the hospital.
Lumbago or low back pain symptoms
In most cases, pain starts after some heavy activity or lifting or some jerky movement. The pain may be mild or excruciating. Spasm of the lower back muscles can cause severe pain and lead to reduced movement. One may be forced to lie down in bed because of this. At times the spasm is so severe that one cannot even stand up. In young patients with backache, the usual cause is muscle spasm or disc prolapse. This disc prolapse can cause the disc to put pressure on the nerves originating from the spine. In cases where there is nerve involvement, pain may radiate down the hips and legs. This is known as sciatica. There may be numbness of the toes. These are all signs of some nerve involvement. At times, the pain may be worse while standing still. One if forced to sit down after standing for a little while. Walking around may not be that difficult as is standing still.
Causes of lumbago or low back pain causes
The usual perception is that the low back pain is in itself a disease or a problem. This is not true. The low back pain is rather a symptom of a problem. The actual cause of the lumbago has to be found to be able to treat the pain. Therefore one needs to know the various possible causes of lumbago. The causes may vary from some structural problem in the spine to a muscle spasm or to even some deep seated abdominal organ disease. In some cases there is no tangible reason to be found. Being overweight or obese can also be a major cause of back pain. The fact is that whole of the weight of the body is borne by the spine. If one is overweight, the spine has to carry the excess load. This is quite likely to cause some pain in the long run. The most important causes of low back pain are listed here below-
- Muscle spasm or strain– Muscle spasm or strain is the most common cause of low back pain. This may occur while lifting some weights, pulling or pushing, twisting or any sudden movement or a jerking movement. Any such movement can cause a minute tear in the back muscle or ligament or tendon. Although it may not be a serious thing, it can cause severe pain and may even curtail one’s movement. Such muscle strains or spasms usually heal themselves with a little bit of rest and some hot fomentation for pain relief.
- Age related degeneration or osteoarthritis– As we age, the bones as well as the spine undergoes some amount of degeneration. The lower back has to bear the weight of the upper body. Therefore it is subject to a lot of stress and strain. In most of the cases these days, there is little physical activity. This leads to obesity on one hand and weak back muscles on the other. The weak muscles are unable to support the heavy upper body and this puts all the strain on the spine causing it to degenerate faster. The discs that are present between two vertebra lose their normal hydration and also their ability to absorb shocks. This allows the vertebra to come in contact with each other and cause pain. This friction also causes the vertebra to form spurs.
- Prolapse of intervertebral discs– In some cases, the intervetebral discs herniate or prolapse from their normal position between two vertebra and impinge on the nerves passing from the vertebras. This can cause pain to radiate down the legs and is known as sciatica. Such pain is usually worse by standing for some time and by sneezing and coughing.
- Being overweight-This is one of the most common causes that result in back pain. Modern lifestyle is mainly to blame for this. We tend to depend more and more on vehicles and walk around less and less. This sedentary lifestyle leads to an increase in our body weight. At the same time, the increased consumption of junk food and aerated drinks also contribute greatly to this obesity epidemic. All the increased weight of the body is borne by the spine and leads to excess wear and tear and weak muscles. This contributes to the back pain.
- Being couch potatoes-We tend to sit for long hours in front of the computer screens or laptops or TVs. Most of the time, our posture is also not right. We tend to turn and twist lying in the bed while watching TV. All this leads to increased strain on the lower back.
Management of low back pain
It is very important that pain in the lower back be managed in the right manner. There is lots of advice flying around here and there when it comes to pain in the lower back. It is better to seek and heed the advice of an expert doctor rather than your friendly neighbour. A common myth is that complete bed rest is needed to relieve the pain. You need to keep a simple principle in mind that when you stop using a particular muscle, its strength reduces. Your requirement in this case happens to be strong muscles and not weaker ones. So judicious use of rest is required.
- When the pain is in the initial acute stage and severe, it is better to take rest and restrict one’s movement.
- Applying heat or hot fomentation gives relief to the pain.
- You can use belt to restrict the movement of the muscles of the lower back in the initial few days. Using the belt for long may even prove counterproductive as disuse of the muscles leads to atrophy of the muscle mass. This causes muscle to weaken further whereas the need is to strengthen the muscles.
- After a few days, when the acute crisis seems to have blown over, it is better to start some physical activity. Walking is known to help a lot. Swimming and riding a bicycle are good exercises.
- One should avoid weight bearing and hard exercises. Lifting weights should be avoided.
- Bending forward is also not advised. One can safely rely on backward bending exercises. They not only strengthen the muscles but also give some relief to the lower back pain.
Homeopathy for low back pain treatment
Homeopathy is very helpful in treating low back pain. Even in severe cases where nerve involvement or muscle spasm seems to be the cause, homeopathy is able to treat the lower back pain in an effective manner. When it comes to the treatment of chronic lower back pain, use of homeopathy along with muscle strengthening exericses and regular walks give almost magical results. The commonly used homeopathic medicines for low back pain are Arnica, Rhus Tox, Ruta, Hypericum, Kali Carb, Silicea, Mag Phos and Nux Vomica.