Ildiko Vitez, Joint Replacement Patient Navigator at MemorialCare Saddleback Medical Center
Ildiko Vitez, BSN, RN - Spine Care Navigator
Q: What are some causes of lower back pain?

A: A frequent reason for lower back pain is musculoskeletal injuries, otherwise known as muscle strains, pulls and ligament/tendon sprains. Strains and sprains of the muscle or ligaments can lead to muscle spasms, especially when caused from repetitive motions. Lower back pain can also be caused by disorders that affect the spine, such as osteoarthritis, disc damage or osteoporotic fractures or even by disorders of abdominal organs. Identifying the cause can be challenging and sometimes it remains unidentifiable. Low back pain can be classified by its duration into acute (lasts less than 4 weeks), subacute (4-12 weeks duration) or chronic (lasting for more than 4 weeks).

Q: Is lower back pain hereditary?

A: There is no scientific evidence that lower back pain is hereditary, however observations suggest that it may be present more often in some families than others. This could also be contributed to a similar lifestyle, diet, absence or presence of regular physical activity or weight management, for example.

Q: If I am currently having low back pain; what should I do to help?

A: I recommend reaching out to your primary care physician first, especially if it’s a new condition with or without a cause that is known to you. Your primary care physician may recommend x-rays or refer you to a specialist for further investigation or other treatment options, such as physical therapy. Physical therapy may use different treatment techniques, as well as provide exercises and education on which activities to perform or avoid. Always follow your physician and physical therapist instructions.

Q: What can I do to prevent lower back pain from occurring?

Lower back pain is often the result of long-term stress on the back, such as poor posture, sedentary lifestyle, or strain of a muscle due to sudden movements. It is often associated with an imbalance or weakness of certain back muscles. If you are healthy enough for regular physical activity, an exercise program designed by your doctor or health care provider, can help improve your physical fitness, strengthen your back muscles, and help you maintain a healthy weight. Good nutrition and a healthy diet are also important.

Q: What other options are available to treat my low back pain if I am not ready for surgery?

A: Discuss your plans and wishes with your doctor. If you are not ready for surgery, your physician might discuss several other options to manage your lower back pain. You may be referred to a pain specialist doctor to manage your lower back pain with medication or procedures/injections. Your doctor may also recommend physical therapy, which can help decrease the pain, as well as treat the cause of the pain through exercise and treatment modalities.

Q: How do I know when spine surgery is right for me?

A: Discussing your options with your physicians/surgeon and learning about the advantages and disadvantages should help you decide whether spine surgery is right for you. It’s a personal choice that should be made after you understand all the aspects of the surgery, benefits to you and potential risks. In your decision you may consider how much pain affects your quality of life. Consider and understand the amount of rehabilitation that is necessary to get to where you expect to be. Consider the goals and priorities you have in life. Make your decision only after you have had an opportunity to explore alternatives, ask questions and consider your priorities in life.

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