Although pain is considered to be a subjective feeling, about 80 percent of adults indicate experiencing lower back pain sometime within their lives. But despite the intensity or severity of pain one may experience, there are several triggers that may have lead to that uncomfortable pain many have felt or do feel. And when it comes to lower back pain, the causes may be internal or external, lead to other unpleasant sensations, and require various treatments.
Lower Back Pain Causes and Associated Symptoms
Pain in lower back? It may be due to a number of causes. And aside from the lower back pain, other associated symptoms may accommodate dependent on the origin.
Herniated and Degenerative Discs
A herniated disc is often a consequence of natural aging, or the wear and tear of the disc (or cushions between the vertebrae bones stacking up the spine) and known as disc degeneration. And if a herniated disc is disturbing nearby nerves, lower back pain may be accompanied by weakness or tingling in the legs or feet, along with worsening pain when moving or bouts of prolonged sitting or standing. Apart from aging, a traumatic injury may also cause a disc to herniate and irritate spinal nerves.
Strains are commonly acute injuries that occur when a muscle or tendon is overstretched or torn. They are common in the lower back and generally require the “RICE” regimen – rest, ice, compression, and elevation. Although pain in lower back caused by strains subsides within a few days, severe strains may require surgery to repair the torn muscle or tendon.
Osteoarthritis is extremely common and occurs when the protective cartilage between bones begins to degrade, primarily in the hands, knees, hips, and spine. It often develops slowly and worsens overtime and may cause pain, tenderness, stiffness, and reduced flexibility in the affected area. Spinal stenosis, or the narrowing of the open spaces of the spine, can be a further consequence of osteoarthritis and may cause leg weakness and sensory loss over time.
Sciatica is caused by the compression of the sciatic nerve, the large nerve that travels through the buttocks and extends down the back of the leg. The compression generally causes a shock-like or burning sensation in the lower back, which may eventually reach the feet. It is mostly a symptom of interrupted nerve signaling in the body, though it can also be caused by a tumor that impedes on the sciatic nerve.
Myofascial Pain Syndrome
Myofascial pain syndrome is a chronic pain disorder in which pressure on “trigger points” in muscles causes pain. It is generally caused by repetitive movements in motions from jobs, sports, or hobbies or stress-related muscle tension. Since the pain is generally ongoing, continuous physical therapy may be recommended along with the practice of relaxation techniques.
A compromised skeletal structure may lead to lower back pain, including scoliosis or lordosis. Congenital anomalies, such as congenital spine disorders, may also cause lower back pain.
Although lower back pain is predominantly unrelated to a serious medical condition, it does occur from time-to-time. Underlying conditions may include infection, tumors, kidney stones, diabetes, osteoporosis, endometriosis, and fibromyalgia.
Treatment and management modalities are primarily associated to the cause of lower back pain. For instance, spinal stenosis may require spinal decompression while myofascial pain syndrome may benefit from physical therapy and relaxation techniques. Treatment regimens primarily follow after diagnosing lower back pain, which may be dedicated through physical exams, x-rays, computerized tomography (CT) scans, magnetic resonance imaging (MRIs), bones scans, ultrasounds, blood tests, and other equipment as available or needed.
Although age, fitness level, pregnancy, underlying medical conditions, genetics, and other risk factors may cause lower back pain, you can help gain control to prevent or ease the pain by:
Excess body weight can cause extra stress on the lower back. Manage weight through a healthy diet, including the intake of sufficient calcium, vitamin D, and phosphorous for bone support.
Practicing Good Posture
Practice good posture when sitting or standing, further offering your back lumbar support at a desk and periodically standing up to walk around. And when lifting, be sure to lift with your knees rather than your back. Ultimately, never lift an object that is too heavy, especially without assistance.
Strengthening the Core
A strengthened core can help relieve lower back pain, along with other surrounding muscles such as the hips and pelvic area. Find the best core workout for optimal results here.
Smoking may lead to lower back pain by lowering blood flow to the spine, increasing the risk of osteoporosis, and causing heavy coughing. Smoking cessation may ultimately relieve lower back pain along with lessening the risk of numerous health conditions.
Importantly, too, schedule an appointment with your doctor when first noticing lower back pain. Their professional guidance can help identify likely causes, offer tailored treatment, and keep you comfortably moving for years to come!
Low Back Pain Fact Sheet. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke.