Lower back pain is a common condition that affects four out of five people at some point in their life. Lower back pain ranges from mild to severe and can make it difficult to work, sleep, and enjoy daily activities.
Back pain is classified by duration and may be:
Acute: Comes on suddenly, often caused by something specific such as an injury.
Chronic: Lasts for more than three months.
What Causes Lower Back Pain?
Lower back pain can result from a variety of injuries, diseases, and conditions. Some of these causes include:
- Muscle or ligament strains and sprains – Strains and sprains are the most common cause of pain. Heavy lifting or a sudden awkward movement when sneezing, twisting, or bending can strain back muscles and spinal ligaments. Overactivity can cause muscles to be overstretched and injured.
- Bulging or ruptured disks – Disks act as cushions between the bones that make up the spine. Bulging discs put pressure on nearby nerves. They can also tear or herniate. When disks become flattened due to age, a condition known as degenerative disk disease can develop.
- Arthritis – Osteoarthritis can affect the lower back and usually develops through wear and tear. The cartilage between the joints slowly breaks down resulting in inflammation and pain. Arthritis in the spine can cause a narrowing of the space around the spinal cord. This condition is known as spinal stenosis.
- Fractures – The bones of the spine may break due to an accident or injury. Conditions such as osteoporosis and spondylolysis can cause the bones of the spine to become brittle and develop painful fractures.
- Spinal Stenosis – Spinal stenosis occurs when the space around the spinal cord narrows and puts pressure on the cord and spinal nerves.
- Scoliosis – Scoliosis, or an abnormal curve of the spine, may cause back pain. Pain, weakness, or numbness in the legs can occur if pressure on the nerves is involved.
- Disease – Certain diseases such as cancer, infections, kidney stones, or a bulging area in an artery, known as an aneurysm, can cause back pain. Some of these can be serious. People who have vascular or arterial disease, a history of cancer, or constant pain regardless of activity level or position should consult a doctor.
How to Relieve Lower Back Pain
Mild low back pain may get better quickly with simple treatments such as:
- Applying ice to an acute injury to reduce swelling and inflammation
- Applying a heating pad to improve the movement of the muscles and stimulate blood circulation
- Gentle stretching
- Taking an over-the-counter nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory (NSAID) medicine
After a few days of rest, getting back to normal activity will increase blood flow to the area and help with mobility and healing. If lower back pain does not start to improve after four weeks or is related to an injury, it may be necessary to seek additional treatment.
The doctor may recommend:
- Physical therapy – Physical therapy can include treatments such as heat, ice, massage, ultrasound, and electrical stimulation. Working to restore motion and strength to the lower back can be very helpful in relieving pain and consists of stretching, resistance, and aerobic exercises.
- Minimally Invasive Procedures – Depending on the cause of pain, minimally invasive procedures can provide pain relief for this pain. These include radiofrequency ablation, Intracept, and regenerative medicine.
- Surgery – Surgery for lower back pain should only be considered when the doctor can pinpoint the source of pain and nonsurgical treatment options have been tried and have failed.
Lower back pain can be complex and make it difficult to remain active. Don’t wait to find relief! Schedule your appointment today.