Low back pain is of epidemic proportions in the United States ranking as the second most common reason for a doctor visit behind the common cold. It is estimated that 80% of people will have an episode of low back pain at some time in their life. Fortunately, most of these episodes are self-limiting resolving on their own without causing a permanent problem. Patients with the acute onset of low back pain often note the episode after a bending, twisting or lifting incident and experience pain in the lower part of their back where the spine meets the pelvis. Patients occasionally note that pain spreads to their buttocks or back of the thighs but usually does not extend below the knees and is not associated with numbness, tingling or weakness in the legs.
Treatment of Low Back Pain
Treatment of acute low back pain usually consists of oral medicines including oral steroids, non-steroidal medication and muscle relaxers. Local heat usually helps to relax the low back muscles. X-rays are usually not necessary on the first visit to the doctor. Early mobilization with a walking and gentle stretching program is often helpful. Occasionally a short treatment course of Physical Therapy will hasten recovery.
A few patients will not resolve their symptoms and experience chronic low back pain. Treatment of these patients usually centers around the use of non-steroidal medication along with a conditioning program and a reduction of certain activities that aggravate the pain.
Tim E. Budorick, M.D. FAAOS, Abbott Byrd III, M.D. FAAOS, FACS and David M. Clifford, M.D. FAAOS practice at the Virginia Spine and Scoliosis Center which is a division of Atlantic Orthopaedic Specialists with offices in Norfolk, Virginia Beach and Chesapeake, Virginia.