Lower Back Pain

Everything You Need to Know About Lower Back Pain

Nearly 80 percent of the adult population deals with some sort of lower back pain in their lifetime. Whether it is the result of a job-related accident a former sports injury or even hereditary factors, low back pain is a significant yet treatable issue in most cases. Understanding the different types and causes of low back pain as well as learning the treatment options available is an important step for any individual dealing with this health concern.

Low Back Pain

Men and women both deal with lower back pain equally. The issue varies in intensity from a dull, continuous ache to a sudden, intense pain that may even leave the individual debilitated. Abrupt pain is typically the result of an accident or injury when lifting something heavy. However, pain can be related to age and hereditary changes. Likewise, sedentary lifestyles can significantly impact the onset of back pain.

Common Forms of Lower Back Pain

Most pain originating in the lower back is short term or acute, and it only lasts a few days to a few weeks. In most cases, the pain resolves itself with effective self-care, and individuals experience no outstanding loss of function. The most common forms of acute lower back pain are mechanical, which means that there is a temporary disruption in how the components of the back fit and function together. With that in mind, there are two main subcategories of low back pain:

  • Subacute Low Back Pain – Pain that persists for a period of four to 12 weeks.
  • Chronic Low Back Pain – Chronic pain is defined as pain that continues for a period of 12 weeks or more, even after the actual injury or cause of the original pain has been treated. Roughly 20 percent of people affected by lower back pain develop chronic issues.

Lower Back Pain Causes

The most common causes of lower back pain are mechanical. Many times, pain is related to a condition known as spondylosis, which refers to the general deterioration of the spine related to normal "wear and tear" of the joints, discs, and bones. Some of the most common causes of lower back pain include:

  • Sprains or Strains – Sprains are the result of overstretching or tearing ligaments while strains are tears in a tendon or muscle. These occur from lifting or twisting something improperly or overusing the muscle.
  • Disc Degeneration – This is one of the most common causes of lower back pain, which occurs as the normally "rubbery" discs in the back lose their integrity as a normal result of aging. As a result, the discs lose their "cushioning."
  • Herniated or Ruptured Discs – This concern is caused by the discs becoming compressed or bulging outward or rupturing.
  • Spondylolisthesis – This condition occurs when the lower spin moves out of places and pinches the nerves exiting the spinal column.

In rare cases, what causes lower back pain may be a more serious underlying condition. Such conditions include:

  • Infections – Not a common cause of low back pain, infections can cause pain if the vertebrae are involved.
  • Tumors – A relatively rare cause of low back pain, tumors can occasionally begin in the back. But they typically appear in this location as a result of cancer that has formed elsewhere and metastasized to the back.
  • Inflammatory Diseases – Diseases, such as arthritis, may predispose an individual to low back pain.
  • Osteoporosis – A metabolic bone disease, osteoporosis is characterized by the progressive decrease in bone density, which can lead to fractures in the back.
  • Fibromyalgia – A chronic condition, fibromyalgia is characterized by widespread fatigue and muscle pain, including lower back pain.

Treatment for Lower Back Pain

Specific treatment for lower back pain typically depends on what type of pain is involved. Surgery is generally only recommended if there is nerve damage or structural changes that corrective surgery can improve. In most cases, back pain can be treated effectively with:

  • Heat or ice
  • Bed rest
  • Stretching or yoga
  • Physical therapy
  • Chiropractic care

Top 5 Routes for "Lower Back Pain"

  1. Spine-health.com This site presents comprehensive research on back pain and treatment of all kinds.
  2. NIH: Low Back Pain Fact Sheet This resources presents a comprehensive explanation of the causes of low back pain as well as how back pain is diagnosed and treated.
  3. Prevention.com This site shares several of the common treatments for acute back pain.
  4. MedicineNet.com This resource shares several facts about low back pain as well as explains the anatomy of the back as it pertains to what causes low back pain and how it is treated.
  5. MayoClinic.org This resource helps an individual determine lower back pain causes and prepares him or her to discuss the issue with a doctor.

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