It’s safe to say that almost everyone at some point in their life will experience back pain.
Acute Low Back Pain – What you need to know
Acute low back pain is one of the most common reasons for people to see their doctor or miss work. It is a leading cause of disability worldwide and in Australia on any given day 1 in 7 to 1 in 4 Australians experience low back pain. Most cases of acute low back pain go away on their own within a few days or weeks, with spinal imaging rarely indicated in this population.
Causes of Acute Low Back Pain
There are many possible causes of acute low back pain. The most common cause is muscle strain. This can occur after lifting something heavy, sudden movements, bad posture, or prolonged sitting or standing in one position. Other possible causes include disk herniation, spinal stenosis, degenerative disk disease, and osteoarthritis.
Symptoms of Acute Low Back Pain
The symptoms of acute low back pain vary depending on the cause. The most common symptom is muscle pain that feels like a dull ache or cramp. Other symptoms may include tenderness, stiffness, localized pain when moving certain ways, muscle spasms, and difficulty moving.
Diagnosing Acute Low Back Pain
Your physiotherapist will ask about your medical history and symptoms and do a physical examination to assist in determining the cause of your symptoms. In most cases, you will not require any further investigation. However, if further investigation is warranted your physiotherapist may refer you to your doctor.
Treating Acute Low Back Pain
Most episodes of acute low back pain go away on their own within a few days or weeks with home care and self-care measures such as over-the-counter medication (if required), ice or heat therapy and a graded return to activity. If your symptoms do not improve or get worse after several weeks, your physiotherapist may refer you to your doctor to see if other treatment methods may be required.
Acute low back pain is a common condition that usually gets better on its own within a few days or weeks with home care and self-care measures. However, some people may have persistent symptoms that require treatment from a doctor. If you experience any of the following symptoms for more than a few weeks, be sure to see your doctor: severe pain that does not improve with home care measures; numbness in your legs; weakness in your legs; loss of bowel or bladder control; or progressive muscle weakness. Your doctor will likely diagnose you based on your medical history and symptoms and perform imaging tests if necessary to rule out other conditions.