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Lumbar (Lower Back) Pain

  • What is lumbar pain?

    Back pain is common and usually lasts for a short time. There are steps you can take to ease the symptoms and prevent future problems. The most common type of back pain is pain in the lumbar spine (lower back) as this area bears the stress of your weight throughout the day.

    Many people have lower back pain at some point in their lives but few are caused by a chronic medical problem. Lower back pain often clears within 2 – 6 weeks and can be separated into 2 categories:

    • Mechanical pain – caused by degeneration (wear and tear) of parts of the lumbar spine
    • Neurogenic pain – occurs when spinal nerves are swollen, squeezed or pinched
  • There are many causes of back pain and they can be grouped according to the sources of pain. Common causes of back pain include:

    • Arthritis
    • Bone tumour
    • Fracture
    • Irritation of a nerve root
    • Ligament injury
    • Muscle strain or injury
    • Other non-spinal causes (eg. viral infections, kidney stones or gynaecological problems in women)
    • Poor posture
    • Slipped disc
    • Spinal stenosis (narrowing of the spinal canal)
    • Spine curvatures (scoliosis or kyphosis)
    • Trauma (from an injury)
  • Symptoms vary depending on which structures are affected. Some of the more common symptoms are:

    • Back stiffness and reduced range of movement
    • Muscle weakness in the hip, thigh, leg or foot
    • Pain spreading from the buttock to the foot
    • Pain spreading into the buttocks and thighs
    • Sensory changes (numbness, prickling or tingling) in the leg, foot or toes

    On some rare occasions, symptoms involve changes in bowel or bladder function, ie. from a large disc herniation that presses on the nerves that lead to the bowels or bladder.

  • The main goal of treatment is to control the pain. Some treatments include:

    • Back brace to support a problematic disc, usually for 2 – 4 days, 
    • Bed rest to rest the sore discs and nerves, usually for no more than 2 days
    • Medication to help with sleep and to control pain, swelling and muscle spasm (cramp)
    • Physiotherapy to relieve pain, improve back movement and maintain a healthy posture
    • Spinal injection to relieve pain

    Surgery is usually only done if severe pain does not improve. Types of surgery include:

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