GREENWICH, Conn. -- Did you know that 80 percent of Americans experience low back pain at some point in their lifetime? According to neurosurgeon Dr. Scott Simon of Orthopedic and Neurosurgery Specialists in Greenwich and Stamford, the majority of low back pain is due to a lower back muscle and ligament strain or sprain.
“This type of common low back pain usually occurs after exercise or other exertions, as muscles tighten,” he said, adding that stress has also been shown to make people more susceptible to episodic low back pain. Avoiding sudden lifting away from your body and stretching before or after exercise can often help prevent pain.
This common low back pain most commonly lasts two to five days and is best treated with heat and anti-inflammatory medication such as Naprosyn or ibuprofen. In the vast majority of cases, the pain subsides on its own without need for additional treatment. Even as the pain dissipates, however, Simon recommends easing back into exercise. “Re-injury can occur if the muscles and ligaments are still healing,” he said.
In today's market, there's no shortage of products claiming to be pain panaceas. In reality, there is no concrete evidence supporting the use of a specific mattress, pillow or chair to avoid back pain. “The best mattresses, pillows or chairs are the ones that are most comfortable according to the needs and preferences of the individual,” said Simon.
Those who experience pain that lasts longer than a week or produces leg pain, weakness, numbness or tingling should seek medical attention. Pain that radiates down one or both legs may be due to nerve irritation or pinching from either a disc herniation or arthritis. In the majority of these conditions, patients are often treated with physical therapy.
To learn more about low back pain, visit the ONS website.