Lombago: causes, treatment and prevention of acute lower back pain
Updated: February 2020
Acute lower back pain is characterised by the onset of a sharp pain in your lower back. It is often brought on by an awkward movement or heavy lifting and is generally benign, although very painful. Most of the time, acute lower back pain only lasts for a few days and is one of the most common types of back pain.
Causes and symptoms of acute lower back pain
Acute lower back pain is characterised by a sudden sharp pain in the lower back, which is sometimes accompanied by severe stiffness in the lower part of the spine and may stop you from performing certain movements. This pain tends to get worse when you move, and ease off when you lie down.
Acute lower back pain is usually caused by strenuous activity (e.g. when exercising), an awkward movement, or heavy lifting. This exertion or awkward movement affects the discs between the vertebrae, which irritates a nerve and causes the muscles in your lower back to contract in response.
Treating acute lower back pain
Rest and painkillers are usually sufficient for treating acute lower back pain. You should not rest for more than 48 hours – after this time, wearing a lumbar support belt can help you to minimise the pain while maintaining a normal level of everyday activity. Applying a heat pack to the painful area can also help to ease your lower back pain, as can painkillers or anti-inflammatory drugs. If the pain persists for several weeks, your doctor may also prescribe a course of physiotherapy. However, as a general rule, acute lower back pain usually passes within 4 weeks.
There are also some other, drug-free methods of treating pain, such as the OMRON HeatTens range of pain relievers, which use a combination of soothing heat and Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation (TENS) to ease lower back pain.
Preventing acute lower back pain
There are several measures you can take in order to prevent acute lower back pain, or to stop it from coming back. The most important one is to look after your back and try to avoid sudden or awkward movements, by bending your knees and keeping your back straight when you need to pick something up. It is also good to exercise regularly (especially swimming), as is eating a balanced diet in order to avoid becoming overweight.
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