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Low Back Pain

Low back pain is a common complaint among the elderly. It may present as acute pain, chronic pain or acute exacerbation of a chronic pain problem. Generally, back pain may be caused by injuries, diseases and degeneration. In older adults, back pain can be produced by movement, disk compression of an already narrowed spinal canal with a displaced disk or instability of the lower back vertebrae. It may also be caused by malignancy or infection.

When to seek medical help if you get low back problems?

Many people who develop mild low back discomfort may not need to seek medical help right away. Often, the symptoms go away within a few days without any treatment.

You should seek medical consultation for the following conditions:

• The symptoms are severe (*) or

• The pain is keeping you from doing things that you do every day or

• The problem does not go away within a few days after rests.

(*) The urgent warning signs include fever, pain going down below the knee, difficulty walking, significant pain after a fall, and loss of bowel or bladder control. A person with a known malignancy who experiences back pain should also receive an emergency evaluation.

Points to note: Do not use self-medication such as pain-killers without formal medical advice to lessen your symptoms. Those drugs may have adverse side effects (i.e. stomach bleeding) especially for the elderly.