Low Back Pain and Problems

Low back pain can range from a mild, annoying discomfort to severe, disabling pain that interferes with daily life.

Causes of Low Back Pain

Even with today's technology, the exact cause of low back pain can be hard to find. In most cases, back pain may result from several factors, including:

  • Strenuous activity or improper use (such as heavy lifting)
  • Trauma or injury
  • Vertebral or bone injury
  • Obesity
  • Poor muscle tone in the back
  • Muscle tension or spasm
  • Sprain or strain
  • Ligament or muscle injury
  • Degenerative disc disease
  • Smoking
  • Protruding or herniated disc
  • Osteoarthritis
  • Compression fracture

Preventing Low Back Pain

The following may help to prevent low back pain:

  • Practicing correct lifting techniques
  • Maintaining correct posture while sitting, standing, working, and sleeping
  • Exercising regularly (with proper stretching techniques and/or core exercises)
  • Avoiding smoking
  • Maintaining a healthy weight
  • Reducing emotional stress, which may cause muscle tension

Diagnosing Low Back Pain

In addition to a complete medical history and physical examination, your doctor may use the following tests to diagnose low back pain:

  • X-ray
  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)
  • Computed tomography scan (also called CT or CAT scan)
  • Electromyogram/nerve conduction (EMG/NCV): a test to evaluate nerve and muscle function
  • Lab tests, if needed

Treatments for Low Back Pain

Your care team will work with you to determine the best treatment plan based on your age, overall health, and medical history; the severity of your condition; and your tolerance of certain medications, procedures, or therapies.

Your treatment plan may include:

  • Changing your activities
  • Medication
  • Physical therapy
  • Occupational therapy
  • Exercise
  • Ergonomic education
  • Lifestyle modifications
  • Weight loss (if overweight)
  • Quitting smoking
  • Following a prevention program (as directed by your doctor)
  • Braces/assistive devices
  • Injections or other minimally invasive procedures, which may be performed under live x-ray guidance
  • Surgery

Rehabilitation for Low Back Pain

Generally, there are three phases to low back pain rehabilitation, which are:

  • Acute Phase. During this initial phase, the treatment team focuses on diagnosis, treatment planning, and beginning therapy to reduce pain and inflammation.
  • Recovery Phase. Once the pain and inflammation have improved, the rehabilitation team focuses on returning the patient to normal daily activities while implementing an exercise program to improve flexibility and strength.
  • Maintenance Phase. This phase involves educating the patient on ways to prevent back injury and helping the patient maintain physical fitness to increase strength and endurance.

Why Choose Columbia for Low Back Pain Care

Our highly skilled team of physicians is fully integrated into the Och Spine Program. We perform a thorough diagnostic evaluation to find the cause of your back pain and plan the most conservative treatment possible. Exercise, lifestyle changes, and medications are often sufficient to manage an episode of back pain. If needed, our physicians offer fluoroscopically (live x-ray) guided spine injections and other minimally invasive procedures to alleviate more severe back pain. If surgery is needed, our physicians will refer you to a highly skilled surgical colleague within the Och Spine Hospital.