Back pain is often a common symptom of many disease conditions and the back pain may range from simple or dull pain to sudden and sharp pain. If the pain persists for few days, it is acute pain whereas if continues for more than 6 weeeks, it is considered chronic pain. In most cases, back pain may resolve without any treatment however if persists for more than 3 days, medical intervention is necessary.
Musculoskeletal back pain can be alleviated with rest, pain relievers, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, corticosteroids, and physical therapy. However certain conditions causing severe pain may require surgical treatment.
One of the common causes for back pain is low back strain. Low back strain or lumbar strain occurs when the muscle or the tendon in the lower back gets stretched or torn. It is caused by lifting heavy objects or overload, sitting or standing for a longer time, direct blow over the area, or sports such as basketball, baseball, or golf that involve sudden twisting of lower back can also lead to strain.
The risk factors such as excess low back curvature, weak abdominal muscles, and forwardly tilted pelvis can increase the risk of this injury.
The common symptoms include low back pain that radiates down to the buttocks; inflammation of the soft tissues that surround the muscles; stiffness in the low back; restricted movements; inability to maintain correct posture; muscle spasms; and pain which continues for a longer period.
Your doctor will perform a physical examination and take a brief medical history to diagnose your child’s condition. Other additional tests such as X-ray and MRI scan may be required to confirm the injury and provide necessary treatment.
The conservative treatment methods include:
- Rest: You should rest for while the pain is severe, but prolonged bed rest should also be avoided as it leads to loss of muscle strength and makes the muscles stiff which will aggravate pain and discomfort. Hence bed rest should not be continued for more than 48 hours.
- Heat can be applied to the injury which will help to diminish pain. Heat should be applied over a towel to the affected area for 15-20 minutes four times a day for several days.
- Braces or belt might be used to support the back while the healing happens.
- Medications that may be prescribed include nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs to reduce pain and inflammation. Other medicines such as muscle relaxants control muscle spasms. These medicines often cause sedation; therefore, consult your doctor to discuss about the type of muscle relaxants for your child.
- Your doctor may also suggest a rehabilitation program. It consists of stretching and strengthening exercises, pelvic stability exercises, gentle massages, and ice or heat therapy to improve your condition. It helps to control the pain, strengthen the abdominal muscles, and also speeds up the recovery which allows you to return to the weight-bearing activities.
Some of the preventive measures which can help prevent back strain in children include:
- Doing warm up exercises before the start of any physical activity or sports and taking short breaks in between the activity.
- Ensure that you use correct lifting techniques such as squatting to lift a heavy object.
- If you are overweight or obese, it can strain the back muscles. Hence it is advised that you lose some weight and maintain a healthy diet.
- Encourage exercise everyday as it improves spine stability.
In some cases, pain persists despite conservative (simple) measures to alleviate your back pain. You may be referred to a rheumatologist for further assessment. The rheumatologist’s role is to diagnose the exact cause of your symptoms and work with your GP to formulate a management plan to restore you to health.