“Every second spent without back pain is a lucky second. String enough of those lucky seconds together, you have a lucky minute.”
So said the cantankerous Dr. Bigelow, played by Charles Grodin, to Louie (Louis C.K.) on the episode “Back” that kicked off the fourth season of Louie. He leads up to this gem by telling Louie that humans aren’t meant to be walking around upright: “Use your back as it was intended, walk around on your hands and feet, or accept the fact that your back is going to hurt sometimes.” We are not destined to live with back pain as this may suggest. Many of us don’t have the tolerance or patience for it.
“Most back pain — even severe back pain — goes away on its own in two to four weeks. Surgery is rarely needed for back pain and is generally considered only as a last resort.”MayoClinic.orgWalking around on all fours seems much more painful than standing upright — do we really need to think about this as choosing the lesser of two evils? Apparently, we do not. According to MayoClinic.org, “Most back pain — even severe back pain — goes away on its own in two to four weeks. Surgery is rarely needed for back pain and is generally considered only as a last resort.” Still, anyone who has experienced low back pain – a whopping 80 percent of adults, according to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke [NINDS] – can attest to its annoyance. But guys, take heart: Women are much more likely to suffer low back pain than men. We can thank the gift of bearing children and wearing high heels for that.
Low back pain is usually caused by injury-induced mechanical failures such as sprains, strains, or ruptured discs. We’ve all lifted things incorrectly and paid the price with our lower backs. Arthritis and poor posture can also be culprits. More rarely, cancer, sciatica, or kidney infections are to blame. According to Lori Willard, DPT (Clinical Doctor of Physical Therapy), of Willard Physical Therapy Associates in Dallas, the leading causes of low back pain go hand in hand with aging – namely weight gain, loss of flexibility, and inactivity. These behaviors cause weakness in the core, that magic intersection of muscles that serves to stabilize the spine.
So you’re having some pain in your lower back. What approach should you take to make it go away? The most important things to gauge are how much pain you’re in, and how long it’s been going on.
If you have only mild pain, you can begin a home treatment that includes rest, alternating ice packs and a heating pad, and over-the-counter pain and inflammation relievers such as ibuprofen and acetaminophen. Depending on the severity of the pain, warm baths and massage can also be effective at relaxing the muscles. Experts also recommend lying on your side with knees bent and a pillow between your legs, if lying on your back is too uncomfortable. One thing to note – even though it seems counter-intuitive – you must get up and move. Stretching the muscles is imperative, even if it hurts at first to move around.