Lower back pain is a common problem that can be very painful. It is a condition that affects over 80% of the population at some point. Lower back discomfort can range from mild to severe, affecting a person’s ability to engage in and enjoy daily activities.
Back pain can be broken down into two categories depending on how long it lasts.
- Acute back pain develops quickly and is often caused by a single incident, such as an injury.
- Chronic back pain is defined as discomfort that lasts more than three months.
Reasons for Lower Back Pain
There are many reasons for lower back pain. It can be caused by various injuries, diseases, or ailments.
Muscle and ligament sprains and strains
Most people who suffer from lower back pain have a strain or sprain in their back muscles or spinal ligaments. They might be damaged from carrying heavy objects or performing sudden movements such as twisting or bending. Overworked muscles may get overstretched and strained.
Sprains refer to injuries to ligaments, which are pieces of connective tissue that attach to two bones. Strains refer to injuries to muscles or where they attach to bones (tendons). There are many muscles, tendons, and ligaments that help our spines move, and therefore, many areas that can be injured.
Treatment may consist simply of rest and pain medications, but sometimes more advanced treatment may be necessary if the injury becomes chronic.
Bulging or ruptured disc
The vertebrae are the bones that make up the spine. A disk is a cushioning material that sits between each of these bones. Disks can bulge out of their positions, putting pressure on nearby nerves. They are also prone to tearing or herniation. If the discs become flatter as a natural result of age, a condition known as degenerative disc disease may occur.
These conditions can be quite painful and often require treatment with physical therapy, pain medications, and even surgery.
Osteoarthritis, which can manifest in the lower back, is frequently caused by wear and tear. The protective cartilage that lines the gaps between the joints degrades over time, causing irritation and pain. The canal that the spinal cord sits in may become more narrow when arthritis affects the spine. The medical term for this condition is spinal stenosis. Spinal stenosis causes pressure to be applied to both the cord and the spinal nerves.
There are many treatment options available for arthritis and spinal stenosis, from physical therapy to injections and minimally-invasive procedures.
The sciatic nerve begins in the lower back and goes down each leg, passing through the hip and buttock region. Sciatica refers to pain along the route of this nerve and frequently affects only one side of the body.
Sciatica can occur when a herniated disk, bone spur, or spinal stenosis compresses the nerve. Symptoms may include local swelling, discomfort, and numbness in the affected leg, along with lower back pain.
Treatment often consists of stretching exercises, injections, or surgery to fix a herniated disc.
Spinal fractures are very painful. Accidents and injuries can cause vertebrae in the spine to fracture. Fractures can also occur due to conditions such as osteoporosis and spondylolysis, which cause the spine’s bones to become brittle.
Treatment depends on the area and severity of the fracture.
Underlying health conditions
Back pain can be caused by various medical conditions, including cancer, infections, kidney stones, and an aneurysm. It can sometimes be difficult to tell the difference between lower back pain from a medical condition and the reasons listed above. If you’re suffering from chronic back pain that isn’t going away or is getting worse, it’s important to be seen by a doctor to rule out these types of conditions.
Don’t let lower back pain slow you down any longer – schedule an appointment today!