Pain in the lower back is a permanent problem

Lower back pain - if it comes suddenly

The healthy back

The spine is made up of vertebrae and intervertebral discs. It forms the stable axis of the body. Back muscles and firm connective tissue give it support.

The spine bears the weight of the head, arms and torso. At the same time, it enables movements such as bending, stretching or turning.

What is lower back pain?

Lower back pain is pain in the back area below the costal arch and above the buttocks. Most of the time there is no clear reason for the discomfort. In this case, experts speak of non-specific low back pain. They are usually harmless and will regress in a short time. There is then no evidence of dangerous causes such as inflammation or vertebral fractures. However, these sudden lower back pain can be stressful and limit your everyday life.

Where does this pain come from?

Such low back pain occurs when the nerves near the spine are irritated. There can be many reasons for this, for example:

  • tight muscles
  • Bad posture
  • Obesity
  • Too little movement
  • long periods of sitting

Everyday, emotional or occupational stress can also cause lower back pain and influence its course.

The investigation

If you come to the doctor's office with sudden lower back pain, it must first be clarified whether there is a clear cause for it. The doctor will ask you in detail and examine you physically.

As a rule, this can be used to rule out the fact that there is something serious. Further examinations such as imaging tests (X-ray, MRI, CT) or laboratory tests may only be considered in exceptional cases or if pain persists for more than 4 to 6 weeks.

The treatment

Exercise is most important for sudden lower back pain. High-quality studies have shown this. You do not have to achieve top athletic performance for this. Rather, it is about maintaining or expanding the normal activities of daily living as much as possible. Painkillers can help you temporarily. Most likely, painkillers are from the group of traditional non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) recommendable. These include the active ingredients diclofenac, ibuprofen and naproxen. However, these can have side effects. However, experts advise against the usual pain medication paracetamol. According to current studies, the remedy did not help with low back pain. Bed rest can harm you. Many meaningful studies show that bed rest does not improve the symptoms, but rather intensifies them and delays healing. It can also adversely affect muscles and increase the risk of blood clots forming.

If exercise and medication don't help enough, non-drug procedures may also be considered. Heat therapy, acupuncture or exercise therapy together with educational measures can be offered to support you, for example.

Other methods should not be used because their usefulness has not yet been sufficiently scientifically proven. These include massage, kinesio tapes, shoe insoles, occupational therapy and treatments with electricity, cold, laser, magnetic fields or ultrasound.

You can find detailed information on treatment in the patient guidelines "Low back pain".

What you can do yourself

  • Try to maintain your normal physical activity as best you can or gradually resume it. This promotes a quick improvement of your symptoms and prevents permanent illnesses.

  • Exercise relieves lower back pain. You can choose a type of exercise that you enjoy and is easy on your back, for example swimming, hiking or cycling. In this way you strengthen your back muscles and improve your strength, endurance and flexibility.

  • Small changes can take the strain off your back. For example, change your position more often when you stand or sit for a long time. If you have to sit a lot at work, you can ask your employer about suitable seating. It is best, however, to get up regularly in between, stretch and take a few steps.

  • If you are overweight, it relieves your spine when you lose weight.

  • Find out about your complaints and possible forms of treatment. The more you know about it, the better you can handle it.

  • Low back pain rarely has serious causes. Nevertheless, watch out for additional signs: If the pain is accompanied by problems such as paralysis, numbness or difficulty urinating or defecating, you should consult a doctor immediately. These could be signs of a condition that needs treatment.

December 2017, published by the German Medical Association and the National Association of Statutory Health Insurance Physicians