Musculoskeletal Lower Back Pain

What is musculoskeletal lower back pain?

Musculoskeletal lower back pain is a common condition affecting the muscles and bones of the lower back. About 40 percent of the population will have this condition at some point of their life. It can develop suddenly or progressively over many weeks or months. Accidents, fractures, surgery, heavy work, intensive sports and medical conditions (such as arthritis and osteoarthritis) are common causes of the lower back pain. Back pain, back stiffness and back muscle spasms are typical symptoms. Treatment depends upon the cause of the pain.

Risks

The muscles of the back are almost constantly in use, and because of this, tend to get injured often. Common causes of back muscle injury are heavy lifting and moments of abnormal movements. In most cases, pain is not related to a severe condition, and is due to sprained ligaments or muscles. Persistent, ongoing pain may be due to a slipped disc or spinal joint problems. Around 40 percent of the population will have lower back pain at some point in their life. Obesity, stress, and jobs that involve frequent bending and heavy lifting are all factors which increase the risk of developing lower back pain.

Symptoms

The most typical symptom is pain over the lower back and, sometimes, the buttocks. The pain can be sharp, dull, aching or with tingling or burning sensations. Pain can differ from person to person and also may involve radiating pain to the hip or even further down. Certain movements may make the pain better or worse. The muscles of the back may become stiff or hard.

Diagnosis

The diagnosis is usually based on the symptoms and physical examination, which includes observing the movement of the back and legs. X-rays of the lower back are usually not needed unless the pain becomes long-standing or there are symptoms which could be caused by more serious conditions.

Treatment

The treatment of lower back pain involves pain relief and gentle movements of the back. Simple pain-relief, such as paracetamol and ibuprofen are often helpful in reducing back pain. People with back pain should continue their daily activities and gentle exercise, such as walking, as soon as possible. Resting the back for a long period may make symptoms worse and make the person susceptible to recurrent back pain.

Prevention

Correct lifting techniques, regular exercise, stretching before sport and maintaining a healthy weight can all help to prevent episodes of lower back pain.

Other names for musculoskeletal lower back pain

  • mechanical low back pain
  • soreness of the lumbosacral region