Low Back Pain

Low back pain, which affects approximately 28 percent of U.S. adults (aged 18 and older), is the single leading cause of disability worldwide. It can vary in intensity from mild to incapacitating and occur in one small area or throughout the entire lower back. It may also be accompanied by muscle weakness or spasms.

There are many causes of low back pain:
  • Overuse or injury
  • Aging
  • Herniated disk, the protrusion of a vertebrae
  • Arthritis, inflammation of the joints
  • Fractures
  • Congenital spinal anomalies
  • Osteoporosis (weak and brittle bones)


Treating Low Back Pain
The mildest cases of low back pain can be treated with over-the-counter pain medications, such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen. Sensible exercise, such as walking, can also help alleviate the pain by strengthening the supporting muscles and improving the health of the heart.

More severe cases may require targeted physical therapy, such as spinal manipulation, massage or acupuncture; injection of an anti-inflammatory medication into the epidural space of the spinal canal; or more powerful medication, such as muscle relaxants or painkillers.

Even after the pain has gone away, it is important to be proactive about improving lower back health.

There are practical measures that can help prevent further low back pain:

  • Maintain a straight posture while walking, sitting or standing
  • Get regular exercise
  • Maintain a reasonable body weight
  • Sleep on your side, rather than your back or stomach
  • Use a chair with good back support
  • Take regular breaks to walk around (if your job requires long periods seated)

At Houston Methodist a multidisciplinary team assesses the severity of the pain and attempts to find the source of the problem before determining a course of treatment. Communication from the patient is essential to implement and maintain proper treatment.