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Watch your Lower Back

By: Sharon Bell

If you have lower back pain, you are not alone. Nearly everyone at some point has back pain that interferes with work, routine daily activities or recreation. Americans spend at least $50 billion each year on low back pain, the most common cause of job-related disability and a leading contributor to missed work.

Nearly everyone has low back pain sometime. Men and women are equally affected. It occurs most often between the ages of 30 and 50 due in part to the aging process but also as a result of sedentary lifestyles with too little (sometimes punctuated by too much) exercise. The risk of experiencing low back pain from disc disease or spinal degeneration increases with age.

Back pain is the second most common neurological ailment in the United States - only headache is more common. Fortunately, most occurrences of low back pain go away within a few days. Others take much longer to resolve or lead to more serious conditions.

Most low back pain is triggered by some combination of overuse, muscle strain, and injury to the muscles, ligaments, and discs that support the spine. Many experts believe that over time muscle strain can lead to an overall imbalance in the spinal structure. This leads to a constant tension on the muscles, ligaments, bones, and discs, making the back more prone to injury or reinjury.

Acute or short-term low back pain generally lasts from a few days to a few weeks. Most acute back pain is mechanical in nature - the result of trauma to the lower back or a disorder such as arthritis. Pain from trauma may be caused by a sports injury, work around the house or in the garden, or a sudden jolt such as a car accident or other stress on spinal bones and tissues.

Symptoms may range from muscle ache to shooting or stabbing pain, limited flexibility and/or range of motion, or an inability to stand straight. Occasionally, pain felt in one part of the body may "radiate" from a disorder or injury elsewhere in the body. Some acute pain syndromes can become more serious if left untreated.

Chronic back pain is measured by duration - pain that persists for more than three months is considered chronic. It is often progressive and the cause can be difficult to determine.

Recurring back pain resulting from improper body mechanics or other non - traumatic causes is often preventable. A combination of exercises that don't jolt or strain the back, maintaining correct posture, and lifting objects properly can help prevent injuries.

Many work-related injuries are caused or aggravated by stressors such as heavy lifting, contact stress, vibration, repetitive motion, and awkward posture.

Applying ergonomic principles - designing furniture and tools to protect the body from injury - at home and in the workplace can greatly reduce the risk of back injury and help maintain a healthy back. More companies and homebuilders are promoting ergonomically designed tools, products, workstations, and living space to reduce the risk of musculoskeletal injury and pain.

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About The Author Sharon Bell is an avid health and fitness enthusiast and published author. Many of her insightful articles can be found at the premier online news magazine
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