by Dr. Joel Cervantes
Low back pain or lumbago is a common musculoskeletal disorder affecting 80% of people at some point in their lives. Only headache is more common. In Belize it is the most common cause for people to miss work.
It can be classified as acute (less than 4 weeks), sub acute (4 to 12 weeks) and chronic (beyond 12 weeks). The majority of lower back pain stems from benign problems between the spine and the muscles that surround it. Over 99% of back pain instances are due to sprains and strains. Overactivity of the muscles of the back can lead to a torn ligament which causes pain. The discs (shock absorbers) between the bones of the spine can age, shrink in size, tear or move out of place and cause pain. The joints (hinges) of the spine become hardened as the years go by and this restricts mobility and can lead to pain. Arthritis and osteoporosis (the bone thins out) of the spine also cause pain.
With conservative measures such as the application of heat or cold, use of medium-firm mattresses pain can reduced. Bed rest of more than 2 days is not advised. Even prolonged periods of sitting and lying will not help. Minimum activity helps to counteract the pain.
We must be careful not to strain the back with activity. Stretching, soft massage, acupuncture and physical therapy can help. Taking a basic over the counter pain-killer at a minimum recommended dosage is acceptable.
Only in cases when pain is not subsiding is further investigation by your doctor recommended. Only 10% of persons who have suffered low back pain ever need to visit their doctor.