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Mechanical or Postural Low Back Pain

Low back pain is a common experience for many people. Pain in the lower back can be debilitating, and limit or prevent physical activity.

Mechanical or Postural Low Back Pain Hero Image 2

Low back pain is a common experience for many people. In fact, approximately 80 percent of adults report having had low back pain at some point in their lives.  Pain in the lower back can be debilitating, and limit or prevent physical activity.

Mechanical/postural back pain may also be called acute low back pain, lumbago, idiopathic low back pain, lumbosacral strain or sprain, or lumbar syndrome. Acute low back pain is an episode of low back pain for less than 6 weeks, sub-acute low back pain between 6 and 12 weeks and chronic low back pain for 12 weeks or more

Knowing about the composition of the back helps to understand why back pain occurs. The spine provides structure to the back. It consists of 24 vertebrae that stack on top of each other to form the spinal column. Between the vertebrae are discs which cushion these bones and give the back flexibility. Inside this column is the spinal cord and other nerves which connect to the brain and muscles. The column extends from the neck (cervical) to the lower (lumbar) part of the back.

What causes Mechanical or Postural Low Back Pain?

Mechanical pain is the general term that refers to any type of back pain caused by placing abnormal stress and strain on muscles and soft tissues of the vertebral column. Typically, chronic mechanical pain results from bad habits, such as poor posture, poorly designed seating, and incorrect bending and lifting motions.

Sometimes, in acute low back pain a specific trauma or strenuous activity may cause the pain. However, 80% of the time, the specific source of the pain is not found

Symptoms

Symptoms of mechanical back pain may vary depending on the severity.  For some people, low back pain can be a mild ache that resolves quickly. But for others, it can be severe and debilitating, and require medical treatment. Most commonly the pain is localized to the lower back. Other common symptoms of low back pain include:

  • Pain that worsens with activity – Pain may develop after certain activities or at the end of a long day and may feel like a constant ache.
  • Difficulty bending or twisting your back
  • Pain that extends into the buttocks or outer hip
  • Many people may also experience spasms with mechanical back pain.
  • Symptoms are generally more noticeable with flexion of the back and when lifting heavy objects.
  • Occasionally prolonged standing or sitting can cause low back pain

 

When to see a doctor

If you have back pain that doesn’t improve within a few weeks, or if you have a fever or chills along with your back pain, you should see your doctor. At your visit, your doctor will ask about your symptoms, any injuries you’ve suffered, and your physical activity.

There are several red flags that doctors look for when evaluating low back pain. The purpose of these warning signs is to detect fractures, tumors, or infections of the spine.

An examination of your entire spine will be necessary to look for any abnormalities. You may be asked to perform certain movements to test your range of motion, muscle strength and reflexes. Sometimes X-rays, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and other imaging tests will help your doctor diagnose the cause of your back pain and develop a treatment plan that works for you.

 

Non-operative treatment

Non-surgical treatment with limited rest and over the counter pain relievers is sufficient treatment for most patients. Other treatments include;

  • Ice or heat – Applying heat and ice alternately to the back is helpful to relax the muscles and decrease muscle inflammation. In general, apply heat for 20 minutes, and then apply ice for 20 minutes. If you find that one application is more helpful than the other, then use only that application.
  • Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as ibuprofen or naproxen are available without prescription and may be used to reduce pain. Stronger prescription pain relievers are rarely required.
  • If there is a muscle spasm, a muscle relaxant may be prescribed for a short time (3 to 4 days).
  • Home exercise programs with the help of a Physical Therapist or Certified Athletic Trainer. Doctors recommend early physical activity to promote rapid recovery from back pain. For moderate to mild back pain, some patients are encouraged to maintain a near-normal schedule from the onset.
  • Physical therapists can also work on correcting muscle stiffness and weakness. They can also advise on good posture/lifting technique and correct computer workstation set up.

Low Back Strain

Surgical Treatment

Mechanical Low back pain is always treated with non-surgical methods

Recovery

Low back pain is generally a self-limiting condition:

Sources

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