Acute Lower Back Pain

Your back is an intricate structure, giving you the power to stand, walk, run, sit and lift. The ligaments of the lower back connect the vertebral bones, supporting and stabilizing this area. An unconditioned back is prone to strain when muscles and ligaments are overworked. Back muscle strain occurs when a sudden, forceful movement injures a ligament, which has become stiff or weak from poor conditioning or overuse.

Acute lower back pain is a common medical problem afflicting two-thirds of Americans during some part of their lives. Each year nearly 6 million Americans suffer from back or spinal problems, making back pain the most commonly reported health condition in the United States.

The back is made up of bones, muscles and other tissues extending from the neck to the pelvis. The spinal column supports the body's trunk and protects the spinal cord - the vast highway of nerves that help control the body's sensations and nerves. Bones in your back include 30 pieces stacked up called vertebrae.

This is your spine, and vertebrae protect the spinal cord. Nerves from the spinal cord branch off to organs and muscles throughout the body. The spaces between the vertebrae are made up of round spongy pads of cartilage. These are the intervertebral discs that act as shock absorbers when you walk or run. Ligaments and tendons hold the vertebrae in place and attach muscles to the spinal column.

Lower back pain can be anything from a lumbar sprain to an actual rupture of a disc. However, most cases of lower back pain come from muscle or ligament strain as a result of lifting, bending or overstretching. As a result of the injury, your back muscles spasm, causing the muscles to "lock" and develop pain.

Acute back pain usually means you have pain for a few days to a few weeks. Chronic pain lasts for three months or more. Chronic pain or pain with unusual symptoms could mean a tumor, herniated disc, osteoporosis, osteoarthritis or other serious diseases.

Prognosis

In more than 95 percent of cases, the underlying cause is not serious. Using over-the-counter pain relievers such as ibuprofen, aspirin or naproxen for a few days usually help you feel better. Through exercise and healthy habits, you can keep your back healthy and strong and even avoid pain in the future.

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