Lower back pain is experienced by almost everyone at one point in their life or another. Lower back pain usually starts in what is called the lumbar region, which starts just below the rib cage and travels downward. Lower back pain is one of the leading reasons for missing work. The pain that is in the lumbar region can be intense and often can heal on its own. When it doesn’t, there is an effective treatment that can help.
There are many symptoms that can go along with the lower back pain. Understanding the symptoms can save you a trip to the ER or Urgent Care, knowing what you can and should treat at home. Symptoms can be as follows:
- Dull ache to stabbing or shooting sensation
- Pain can make it hard to move, even standing up straight
- Acute pain comes on suddenly , often from an injury from sports or heavy lifting
- Pain lasting more than three months is classified as chronic
- Pain that is not better after 72 hours should be seen by a doctor
- Pain after a fall or an injury should be checked out by a heath care professional
Other warning signs:
- Loss of bowels
- Loss of bladder control
- Leg weakness
- Pain with coughing or urinating
Pain from heavy lifting or exercising too hard is often caused by muscle strain. Fortunately, back muscle strains usually heal with time, with most healing within a few days and almost all resolving within 3 to 4 weeks. The large muscles in the low back have a good blood supply, which brings the necessary nutrients and proteins for healing to take place.
A bulging disc or ruptured disc is pressing on the sciatic nerve, pain that runs from the buttocks down one leg. Sciatica is a pain, tingling, or numbness produced by an irritation of the nerve roots that lead to the sciatic nerve. The sciatic nerve is formed by the nerve roots coming out of the spinal cord into the lower back.
Reasons for back pain:
- Job – heavy lifting or sitting too much
Two causes of pain: pinched nerve vs. disc pain
In identifying the cause of the patient’s pain, there are two general types of spinal disc problems used by physicians:
Pinched nerve. When a patient has a symptomatic herniated disc, the disc itself is not painful, but rather the material that is leaking out of the inside of the disc is pinching or irritating a nearby nerve. This type of pathology produces pain called radicular pain (e.g., nerve root pain) leading to pain that may radiate to other parts of the body, such as from the low back down the leg or from the neck down the arm. Leg pain from a pinched nerve is usually described as sciatica.
Disc pain. When a patient has a symptomatic degenerated disc (one that causes low back pain and/or leg pain), it is the disc space itself that is painful and the source of pain. This type of pain is typically called axial pain.
- Sciatica is pain, tingling or numbness caused by irritation of the sciatic nerve in the lower back. It can result from a herniated disc pressing against the nerve roots, spinal stenosis, arthritis or an injury-induced pinched nerve.
- Radiculopathy is a disease of the spinal nerve roots and spinal nerves. Cervical radiculopathy affects the nerve roots near the neck and radiates through the arms and hands
- Lumbar disk disease -Your lumbar spine, or low back, is made of five vertebrae separated by cushioning disks of cartilage. Degenerative conditions or trauma can damage a disk, allowing the material inside to bulge into the spinal canal
- Cervical disk rupture – The vertebrae in your spine are cushioned by soft disks. When one of the disks in your neck – the cervical area of your spine – ruptures, the result can be neck pain
- Spinal stenosis is a condition in which the spinal canal narrows and pinches the nerves, resulting in back and leg pain.
- Degenerative disk disease – This is what I have – Most vertebrae are separated by flexible disks of cartilage that act as shock absorbers and allow your spine to move. With age, your disks can lose their height and ability to cushion. This process is called disk degeneration.
- Arthritis of the spine – Arthritis in the lower back and pelvic area can cause pain and loss of motion
- Cervical arthritis- Your neck is the upper or cervical part of your spine, a column of 33 bones called vertebrae. Cervical arthritis is a condition that occurs when the cartilage and vertebrae in the neck wear abnormally.
- Spondylolisthesis- Spondylolisthesis is a forward slip of one vertebra in the spinal column and usually occurs in the lumbar region. Some people are born with a defective vertebra; in others, trauma, a stress fracture, infection or disease may cause the problem. The condition is on the rise among children and adolescents who are active in athletics.
- Myelopathy- Myelopathy is the gradual loss of nerve function caused by disorders of the spine. The condition commonly results from spinal injury or spinal stenosis, a progressive narrowing of the spinal canal.
- Scoliosis is a condition that causes the spine to curve sideways. It can develop during childhood or adolescence and can range from mild to severe
- Kyphosis is a progressive disorder that causes curvature of the thoracic spine in children and adults. It is most often the result of developmental problems, trauma, degenerative diseases (such as arthritis) or osteoporosis with compression fractures.
- Ankylosing spondylitis is a form of arthritis that primarily affects the ligaments and joints of the spine, especially the lower back. As the disease progresses, it can lead to a stooped posture
- A compression fracture is a broken vertebra in the spine. It usually occurs due to severe trauma but is also the result of cancer or osteoporosis. Compression fractures are most common in the vertebrae of the lower back
Diagnosing and Treatment
Help your doctor diagnosis the source of lower back pain by being specific in describing the pain, when it started, related symptoms, and any history of chronic conditions. Your doctor will usually require one or more of the following tests to help diagnosis your symptoms.
- CT scan
There are many ways to treat lower back. Here is just a few:
Low back pain is a universal human experience — almost everyone has it at some point. The lower back, which starts below the ribcage, is called the lumbar region. Pain here can be intense and is one of the top causes of missed work. Fortunately, low back pain often gets better on its own. When it doesn’t, there are effective treatments.
There’s no sure way to prevent back pain as you age, but there are steps you can take to lower your risk:
- Stay at a healthy weight.
- Exercise regularly.
- Lift with your legs, not your back.
- Make sure your workstation position isn’t contributing to your pain