Until three weeks ago, Amon Mwesigye was nursing lower back pain. The first time he experienced it was two years ago, he could hardly walk straight, sit, sleep or do most daily activities because of the pain. A scan showed he had damaged his back due to his sitting posture and was given a sitting aid to correct that and rid him of the pain.
Causes of lower back pain
Umarashid Gulooba, an emergency medicine doctor at the casualty ward at Mulago Hospital says there are many causes of lower back pain and that it is a common complaint especially in the outpatient department. Gulooba says poor sitting postures could be one of the causes of the pain. “Having a seat that does not have lower back support or hunching over for a long time can cause lower back pain. Relatedly, the other cause of the pain be sitting for long,” Dr Gulooba says.
Muscle or ligament strain
Lifting heavy loads or doing strenuous activities also take a toll on your back. “Washing clothes or utensils while bending for more than two hours can strain your back and cause pain. Some pain can also be due to trauma from an accident or when someone hit your back or any other kind of trauma to your back. If you have back pain from a fall or an accident, it will create a kind of pain that can damage the cord, ligaments, backbone and the discs. This is when you need to visit a doctor immediately,” Gulooba advises.
Henry Musinguzi, a general practitioner says when being overweight or obese exerts a lot of pressure on your back which in the long run leads to lower back pain. “The back is able to effectively support the body when it remains in its natural structural position. However, when a person is obese any added weight in their midsection can shift the pelvis forward and cause the spine to curve excessively inward, placing abnormal pressure on back muscles that are now forced to bear that weight,” Musinguzi explains.
When to seek medical help
According to Gulooba, lower back pains that come and go should not cause so much concern. However, if you have back pain with fever, it is an infection and you should seek medical treatment. He adds that if you have lower back pain that is characterised with paralysis, it means the nerves are affected or they are compressed and you need to see a doctor. If you suffer lower back pain that is increasing and is acute regardless of what you do to get rid of it, you as well need to visit a doctor.
Preventing lower back pain
Gulooba and Musinguzi agree that successful treatment of lower back pain depends on the cause. In most cases, it is due to sitting, sleeping and standing. “To avoid bad sitting posture get a seat with back support in form of a cushion so that the bend of the back is maintained. But then, sit for 30-40 minutes and stand and walk a bit. If you have to lift weights, do not put the weight on the back or lift anything with a bent back. Lift with a straight back and use the thigh muscles to lift the weight,” Gulooba advises.
Lifestyle changes such as adopting a better sitting posture and losing excess weight are helpful in preventing lower back pain.
Back pain and lifestyle factors
Of course, factors such as aging, obesity and poor physical condition also can contribute to back pain. While you can’t control your age, you can focus on maintaining a healthy weight, which minimizes stress on your back.
Start by eating a healthy diet. Make sure you get enough calcium and vitamin D. These nutrients can help prevent osteoporosis, a condition that causes your bones to become weak and brittle and is responsible for many of the bone fractures that lead to back pain.
Combine aerobic exercise, such as swimming or walking, with exercises that strengthen and stretch your back muscles and abdomen. Exercises that increase your balance and strength can also decrease your risk of falling and injuring your back. Consider yoga and weight-bearing exercises that challenge your balance.
For most healthy adults, get at least 150 minutes a week of moderate aerobic activity or 75 minutes a week of vigorous aerobic activity — preferably spread throughout the week — and strength training exercises at least twice a week.