Causes of Low Back Pain
Low back pain affects 80% of people at some time in their lives. Whether it’s due to muscle strain, overuse, or injury to the ligaments, muscles or spinal discs, it can become very painful over time. Chronic low back pain can lead to a compensation that can result in muscle injuries when a person begins to walk or move differently in order to avoid pain. Fortunately, many people have found relief by learning about the proper way to stretch and move. In many cases people come to see me, a pain specialist, in order to start a person on the path to recovery.
Non Specific Low Back Pain
Over 99% of low back pain problems arise from benign musculoskeletal issues, also referred to as non specific low back pain. This type of low back pain stems from overuse or injury to the muscles, ligaments, or back joints. It is common for people to strain their muscles or other soft tissues during heavy lifting or any time when there is physical loading of the back.
Chronic low back pain can also be caused when there is pressure on the spinal column nerve roots. Such compression can be caused by different factors including osteoarthritis, a herniated disc, fractures of the vertebrae, and by spinal stenosis.
Postmenopausal women who have osteoporosis, or people who have used corticosteroids for long periods of time are more prone to compression fractures. This type of injury can lead to severe back pain.
While mechanical injury is the most common cause, there are many other less common causes of low back pain. These include inflammatory, neoplastic, metabolic, psychosomatic, Pagets disease, referred pain, and depression. We will address each of these types of low back pain in future blog posts.
Low Back Pain Symptoms
Symptoms of low back pain include cramping, muscle spasms, and pain in the back or buttocks. These low back pain symptoms may last between 48-72 hours, but can be easily aggravated in the days or weeks following by weight-bearing or other movements that add pressure to the injured areas. Often, rest helps but many times these pains fail to go away and medical intervention is necessary. (This is where a pain specialist, such as myself, comes in.)
Symptoms may also include leg pain. Typically, pain begins in the buttocks and then moves down (‘radiates down’) the leg. This condition is known as sciatica and varies from mild to severe pain. It usually only affects one leg and pain can be aggravated by such things as certain motions, coughing or sneezing.
Depending on what type of low back pain you are experiencing, symptoms may improve or worsen in different positions. For instance, if symptoms become more severe when you are in an upright position, you may be able to find relief by sitting down. Bending your knees while you are lying down on your back may also relieve symptoms. If the pain is worse when you bend forward or backwards, try movements that act to straighten your spine such as lying down, standing up straight, or walking.
If low back pain symptoms continue even after sufficient rest, it may be time to visit a pain specialist who can better assess the situation. A pain specialist will be able to offer expert advice and provide necessary treatment to relieve chronic low back pain.
I have extensive experience with low back pain of all different causes. Having back pain is not normal in the aging process and most times there are treatments that can alleviate some or all symptoms.
If you are experiencing back pain (or any other chronic pain) please see our contact page or call our office today!