Low back pain affects many people; you are not alone.Your pain can be caused by aging, injury or spine trauma, lumbar spine disease, or simple daily strain. It can often be debilitating, making it difficult to perform everyday tasks. It can travel down your legs and can even cause leg numbness and weakness.

Fortunately, there are a variety or treatment options available, both non-surgical and surgical. Our goal is to assist you in managing your pain effectively to help improve your quality of life.

About Your Pain

The purpose of treatment is to relieve your pain, not to make an x-ray or MRI of your spine look perfect. So, it is important that we start with conservative measures such as exercise, physical therapy, and/or medication. If we are able to control your pain to your satisfaction without surgery, then we have succeeded.

A Healthy Lumbar Spine

Your spine is composed of bones called vertebrae that stack on top of each other. These vertebrae are separated by discs that have a fibrous coating surrounding a spongy center. Healthy discs act as shock absorbers and provide flexibility.

The vertebral canal houses the spinal column, which contains the spinal cord. The actual spinal cord ends at the first lumbar vertebrae and nerve roots continue vertically down the spine. Nerve roots also branch off the spinal column and exit through holes called foramen.

The lamina is the bridged section that forms the back of the vertebral canal, and is important in spinal stability. The spinous process is the bony ridge you can feel when you run your hand down your spine. Strong and flexible muscles help support your back.

An Unhealthy Lumbar Spine

There are a number of conditions that can lead to an unhealthy lumbar spine.

Herniated Discs

Wear on a disc can cause the outer layer to rupture, creating a herniated disc. The herniated disc can push on the spinal canal and nerve roots, causing pain, numbness, and weakness. Find out more about herniated discs here. A bulging disc also puts pressure on the nerve, but the disc does not actually rupture.

Bone Spurs

Wear on the vertebrae can cause bone spurs, which are bony malformations that can put pressure on discs and inflame the nerves, causing pain. Bone spurs can also cause stenosis, which is a narrowing of the spinal column or foramen.

Instability

Spondylolisthesis, or spinal instability, happens when vertebrae slip from their natural position in the spine. This can cause problems and lead to pain.

Conservative Back Pain Treatments and Procedures

Surgery is never our first choice for treating lower back pain. If Dr. Ahuja believes conservative treatments and therapies would be beneficial to try before considering surgery, there are a variety of options available. You can read more on our Lumbar and Thoracic Spine Surgery page. Our goal is to eliminate your pain or to get it to a level you can tolerate without surgery if possible.

Physical Therapy

  • Dr. Ahuja will often prescribe physical therapy, which can be very beneficial to some patients.
  • Physical therapists can teach patients exercises and ways to improve posture and reduce stress on their back.
  • There are many different types of physical therapy that may be prescribed, ranging from water therapy to special massage techniques.
  • Patients may be given home exercises that can help reduce stress on the spine and improve symptoms.
  • Physical therapy can strengthen the muscles in your back, which can often improve your symptoms.

Lumbar Epidural Steroid Injections (ESIs)

  • ESIs are a set of 2-3 injections into the lumbar spine that can help reduce pain and strengthen the lower back.
  • Dr. Ahuja performs the injections himself, and the entire procedure only takes about a minute.
  • After two injections, Dr. Ahuja will see you back in his office to evaluate your symptoms and see what the next step in treatment should be.
  • For more information, visit our ESI page.

Medication

  • Medications are often an effective way to calm muscle spasms, reduce inflammation, and control pain.
  • It is important to take medications exactly as prescribed by Dr. Ahuja to maximize the effect that they will have in improving symptoms.

Some medication prescribed will only treat pain caused by inflamed tissue, while others will specifically target pain due to pinched nerves. Others will help relax muscle spasms.

What Can You Do?

Along with these conservative therapies, there are many things you can do on your own to help improve your symptoms. Good posture, simple exercises, and other manageable steps can reduce back pain.

Improving Posture

Poor posture is often a root cause of back problems, so learning proper posture is essential to improving your symptoms.

  • When standing, try to align your ears, shoulders, hips, and ankles, and relax your shoulders, hips, and knees. Remember, it as just as bad to be slouched forward as it is to be too arched backwards.
  • When sitting, align your ears with your hips and make sure to sit in a chair that supports your back. Your feet should be flat on the ground.
  • When in the shower, make sure you stand close enough to the showerhead so that you don’t have to slouch to be in the water.
  • It is important to have a good pair of glasses, if needed, which will prevent you from leaning forward when sitting at a computer.
  • Tilt your rearview mirror slightly upwards to prevent slouching when driving.
  • Sleep on your back or side. Sleeping on your stomach only worsens back pain. If you sleep on your side, place a pillow between your legs to prevent your legs from slipping and twisting your spine.

Proper Body Mechanics

When you do everyday tasks, you might not think about how your movement affects your back pain. Here are some tips on how to move properly to reduce your pain.

Lifting and Bending

  • Always bend at the knees and hips, and never bend at the waist.
  • Lift with the object close to you, and use your legs as the primary lifting muscles.
  • Try to keep your hips and shoulders aligned.

Turning and Reaching

  • When turning, move your whole body so you don’t have to twist your back and spine. Lead your body with your feet.
  • Try to keep heavier objects between shoulder and hip level. When reaching for objects, use a stool or other reaching tool if possible.

Exercises

Here are a few helpful exercises that may aid in your recovery. Dr. Ahuja or your physical therapist may suggest different ones depending on your individual needs. Remember, these are just suggestions; you should always make sure to okay these exercises with Dr. Ahuja or your physical therapist first.

  • Lumbar Arc: Lie down, tighten your abdomen and buttock muscles, and tilt your hips until your spine is flush with the floor.
  • Hamstring: Gently pull your leg towards you and then straighten it.
  • Half Sit-Up: Tighten your abdominal muscles and only raise your torso up high enough so your shoulder blades don’t touch the floor.
  • Hip Flex: Tighten your abdominal muscles and gently lean forward, feeling a stretch in your hip and groin.
  • Wall Sit: Place your feet a foot in front of you and keep them at shoulder length. Slide down into a sitting position, leaning against the wall for support.
  • Back Flex: Push your upper body off the floor, keeping your hips touching the floor.

More Tips for Alleviating Lower Back Pain

  • Stress can play a major role in your back pain. Ask Dr. Ahuja about healthy ways you can manage your stress.
  • Be sensible about what you can and cannot do physically, and always make sure to use proper body mechanics.
  • When you wake up in the morning, do a few quick stretches to warm up. If you’re sitting for long periods during the day, it is important to take breaks and exercise to keep your back moving.
  • The right pair of shoes is important for back health. They should be supportive, shock absorbent, and comfortable.
  • A supportive mattress can help reduce back pain.