Acute Back Pain
By AZOPT Goodyear Physical Therapists
If you have ever experienced low back pain, then you know that it can be debilitating. According to Medlineplus.com, 8 out of 10 individuals experience back pain at some point in their lives. In fact, the second leading reason why Americans visit their health care provider is due to low back pain. Low back pain can be a dull constant ache or a sudden sharp pain. There are two types of low back pain known as acute and chronic. Acute back pain is sudden and can last from a few days to a few weeks. Chronic low back pain typically lasts longer than 3 months. First, let’s review acute low back pain.
Acute back pain occurs everywhere along the spine; however, the site most often affected is the low back which supports most of your body weight. Twisting, lifting something unexpectedly heavy, sitting for a long period of time or a traumatic accident/event are all causes of acute low back pain. This pain comes from sudden injury to the ligaments, tendons and muscles supporting the low back and muscle spasms. A muscle spasm is the way the body attempts to protect the area, by acting like a splint. The muscles tighten around the injured area as to not cause any further damage.
Specific causes of acute low back pain include:
- Compression fractures to the spine caused by osteoporosis
- Muscle strains
- Spinal stenosis
- Ruptured herniated disc
Non-orthopedic causes of acute low back pain include:
- Abdominal aortic aneurysm leaking
- Osteomyelitis (infection of the spine)
- Kidney infection or kidney stones
- Problems related to pregnancy
A variety of symptoms may occur after an injury has happened to the low back. These symptoms include tingling, a burning sensation, a dull ache or a sharp pain. Some have also felt weakness in their legs and may experience buckling – a feeling of a fall or an actual fall. The pain ranges from mild to severe and can be debilitating. Depending on the cause of low back pain, one can experience pain into the hip, buttock and leg.
Physical therapy will help to decrease pain and increase function after an acute low back injury. A physical therapist begins with light exercises and manual therapy to decrease muscle spasms, swelling, and pain while increasing muscle extensibility. Exercises are performed to strengthen the areas surrounding the injury site such as the abdominals, back extensors, quadriceps, hamstrings, gluts and hip musculature. Strengthening these areas will assist the muscles in supporting the low back and help avoid further low back pathology.
If you are currently experiencing low back pain, call AZOPT for a free injury screen or schedule a full evaluation. Look for my next blog, a review of chronic back pain.
NOTE: If any of the following symptoms occur after an acute low back pain episode, immediately call a medical doctor:
- Excessive numbness and tingling in the groin area.
- Multiple episodes of legs buckling causing a fall.
- Multiple experiences of incontinence.
- Unexplained weight loss
- Pain that does not resolve with positional change