Acute low back pain



What is backache ?


Backache is often called the "Pain of the century" because so many people suffer from it at least once in their lifetime. It can have numerous causes, depending on the morphology, medical history and activities of each individual. Pain in the back can develop following conditions such as osteoarthritis, a herniated disc, sciatica, acute low back pain (sometimes called "lumbago"), etc. Some of these conditions are chronic, meaning that they are present throughout the individual's life. Others are acute, meaning that they occur following an incorrect movement or excessive physical strain. The spinal column (or spine) has to withstand numerous mechanical and physiological stresses.


The vertebrae have a complex structure: network of ligaments, joint apophyses, intervertebral discs. These allow the spine to fulfil its various roles: mobility of the trunk and head, protection of the spinal cord, circulation of information via nerves that lead from the spinal column to the organs and muscles.


Back pain develops:

  •     When one of the components of the vertebrae is damaged, as is the case in osteoarthritis of the lumbar or cervical spine or in the event of a herniated ("slipped") disc.
  •     When there is conflict between the components, i.e. when one "presses" against the other, as is the case in acute low back pain or sciatica.


What is acute low back pain (lumbago) ?


Acute low back pain is pain in the lumbar spine, i.e. at the base of the back. The pain usually appears suddenly, following an incorrect movement or effort to stand up. Contracture of the spinal muscles displaces the vertebrae, which then remain locked in this position. All this is combined with compression of the intervertebral disc. This acute low back pain may be accompanied by sciatic pain. This is then known as "lumbar sciatica". Without treatment, acute low back pain may become chronic and cause a herniated disc. Acute low back pain is usually triggered when an individual lifts up a heavy object from the ground without bending his/her knees or following a sudden or even seemingly innocuous movement (getting out of bed). Like any contracture, acute low back pain can be caused by carrying out a sports activity without warming up. The individual remains stuck in the position and feels a "stabbing" pain. The expression "put your back out" is sometimes used to describe acute low back pain of this type.


Orthopaedic treatment


An orthopaedic solution meets two objectives: it reduces pain and rests the contracted muscles. During an acute phase, wearing a lumbar support belt (LSB) helps restore a symmetrical position by relaxing the muscles. Wear of an LSB may be recommended as a preventive measure in a person prone to acute low back pain (secondary prevention) or in a person carrying out high-risk activities (primary prevention). A lumbar support belt that fits your morphology properly will help you maintain your usual activities. A broad range of belts are available to fit your lifestyle. The objective of preventive wear of an LSB is to make you more aware and hence prevent you reproducing dangerous movements.


In addition, the increase in intra-abdominal pressure ("corset effect") reduces stresses on the vertebrae. Contrary to preconceptions, wearing an LSB, even for prolonged periods, does not lead to any risk of muscle loss (abdominal and back muscles).






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