What to do for low back pain and how long does it last?

Lumbar pain, lumbago, or more technically, low back pain, It is the product of a painful inflammation, of an acute course, which is located in the lower back area, before the beginning of the buttocks, and which radiates around. Is a disease with variable etiology, of varying duration and that is the cause of the highest percentage of sick leave due to medical rest in the work environment in the population under 50 years of age.

The Spanish Society of Rheumatology estimates that 85% of people will suffer at least one episode of lumbago in their life, and part of the population will do so on a recurring basis, although it is not considered a chronic condition. 95% of the episodes are not associated with any specific pathology, being diagnosed as “nonspecific mechanical low back pain”. However, sometimes the name “lumbago” can hide chronic pathologies, such as spondylitis, fractures, or infectious or neurological lesions, such as pressure on the sciatic nerve.

Most episodes of low back pain are due to overload and poor distribution of weight on the base of the back, to acquire and maintain bad postures, make recurrent overexertion, or by accumulation of tension in that area, product of anxiety and stress. None of these conditions leads to a specific physical ailment characterized as a pathology, which can be reversed by following recommendations for postural hygiene and functional exercises that ensure not relapse into a new episode of pain or tension.

What to do in case of acute lumbago crisis?

Contrary to what might be considered appropriate, doctors recommend staying active:

  • Make normal life as much as possible, developing daily activities as far as discomfort or pain allows.
  • Seek medical advice; who will assess the dimension of the crisis and will indicate treatment.
  • Avoid, if possible, bed rest. Except in extreme crises, where lying down is a mandatory condition for remission, lumbago benefits from movement.
  • Combination of cold / heat in the lumbar area. Although there is no consensus or reliable scientific evidence on the efficacy of heat treatment for low back pain, most patients report experiencing partial remission of pain if cold compresses are applied for one or two days. Then, they recommend switching to heat treatments for periods of 20 minutes a day, until the discomfort remission.
  • Perform physical exercise. Although during the first days of acute crisis it is contraindicated, regular exercise maintains flexibility, strengthens the muscular system and tones the abdominals and lumbar area, necessary to support the skeletal system, balancing the load, both when walking and when lying down. standing, sitting or lying down. The walks and gentle stretching exercises exert their action helping to improve the lumbago crisis. Exercise routines, such as Tai-chi, yoga, Pilates, swimming, or directed gymnastics, benefit the patient in an integral way, eliminating the possibility of a new lumbar crisis.
  • The doctor may indicate the action of a physiotherapist to help overcome the crisis. Its activity will begin at least two weeks after the peak of exacerbation of the lumbago. In the first stage, it can provide us with gentle massages and electrical stimulation to reverse muscle contracture, and then it will indicate the exercises that will specifically strengthen the lumbar and abdominal areas, and correct erroneous postural habits.

How long does a lumbago attack usually last?

Depending on the degree of contracture and level of inflammation, an acute episode of low back pain lasts between 2-4 days up to several weeks, depending on whether it is a consequence of poor posture, or overexertion without adequate abdominal and lumbar muscle toning to support the force deployed, for example, loading and lifting weights improperly.

Most of the time, remission occurs spontaneously after a while, but if it persists recurrently, not yielding to the modification of the pattern that caused it, it may end up producing a contracture, thus requiring several weeks for remission. The time it takes to reverse the crisis will depend on actions to correct the situation and prepare adequately not to relapse.

Preventive actions

Postural care

Postural hygiene is the basis to avoid the appearance of mild episodes of lumbago, and some acute crises. According to physiatrists, the acquisition of good posture habits It is essential to prevent low back pain, and guidance on this should be offered in schools, from children.

Another vulnerable point in lumbago crises is the position we acquire when sleeping, and the mattress support to that posture of the spine in bed, while we sleep. The selection of a mattress that allows an adequate posture of the spine, must be one that allows us to lie on a surface soft enough to adapt to the correct curvature of the spine, and rigid enough to contain and support it. In general, the best mattresses are not the most rigid, nor the softest, but an intermediate one with a tendency to stiffness.

There are two other postural conditions to take care of to avoid low back pain. The first refers to the posture to adopt if we must remain standing for a long time, immobile, and is to place one foot on a small bench, raising one leg above ground level, thus removing tension from the lumbar area. The second refers to the way we sit in our vehicle. In this case, we must ensure that we can make full contact between our back and the back of the seat.

Reinforcement exercises

The toning the muscles that support the spine, as well as that of all the abdominal region, superior and inferior, is fundamental for the containment, support and balance of our thorax and abdomen. Many people who suffer from recurrent lumbago attacks have a poor physical condition, especially regarding their abdominal muscle development and tone.


Dancing produces endorphins, in addition to toning and relaxing, among others, the muscles of the abdominal and lumbar areas. Dancing, you will be doing 2 × 1: you will exercise and relax at the same time, avoiding the possibility of a new crisis.

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