Most low back pain can be treated non-operatively, says ONS neurosurgeon Scott Simon, MD.
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 low back pain usually occurs as muscles tighten after exercise or other exertions,” 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.
In most cases, back pain from strains or sprains 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 the need for additional treatment. Even as the pain dissipates, however, Dr. Simon recommends easing back into exercise. “Re-injury can occur if the muscles and ligaments are still healing,” he said.
Despite the claims of manufacturers, there is no conrete evidence supporting the use of a product to prevent or treat back pain. “The best mattresses, pillows or chairs are the ones that are most comfortable according to the needs and prefences of the individual,” Dr. Simon explained.
Those who experience back pain that lasts longer than a week or produces leg pain, weakness, numbness or tingling sensations may have a more serious problem and 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 can be treated with physical therapy
Anyone should see a doctor immediately if the low back pain is a result of trauma or if the pain is accompanied by any of the following symptoms:
- Fever and chills
- Significant leg weakness
- Sudden bowel and/or bladder incontinence
- Difficulty passing urine
- Severe continuous abdominal pain