What is the reason for lower back pain? How can we prevent and relieve it? Back pain is one of the main reasons why so many people miss work or visit the doctor’s office. It is also the main cause of disability all over the world. Some back pain is acute and can be easily treated, even prevented.
However, chronic back pain is a serious health condition caused by multiple factors. Thankfully, you can take certain steps to prevent and relieve the pain in the lower back. You can try using proper body mechanics and personalized home treatment methods to heal your lower back pain and make your back more functional.
In the worst-case scenario, surgery is needed to treat pain in your lower back. Fortunately, this rarely happens. In this short back pain article, we will reveal what causes back pain, how to stop it, and the best moment to visit your therapist if this spinal pain persists.
What Causes Lower Back Pain?
The pain in your lower back can range from just a mild aching in the lumbar area to a stabbing, burning, piercing, almost unbearable sensation. The intensity of back pain depends on the severity of your condition. In most cases, a sedentary lifestyle inevitably leads to developing back problems.
It can be easily determined by visiting your physio and doing a series of simple tests and imaging studies to identify the root cause of the pain and assign you appropriate therapy. While back pain causes are too many to list, we will address four of the most common causes that are linked to both acute and chronic back pain.
Muscle or Ligament Strain
Making sudden awkward moves, you don’t regularly make, or repeated heavy lifting can cause back pain by straining spinal ligaments and the muscles in your back – even more so if you’re inactive most of the time and in poor physical condition.
If you don’t have enough physical activities in your life daily, even a slight strain on your back muscles can cause an entire range of problems, such as painful muscle spasms or acute back pain.
Both ligaments and muscles in the back can tear or stretch due to excess activity. The symptoms accompanying these conditions include muscle spasms and stiffness, and pain in the lower back or lumbar spine. Physiotherapy and rest are the best remedies for these symptoms.
Bulging or Ruptured Discs
The discs in your back are in charge of back movement. They are little liquid-filled cushions positioned between the bones or vertebrae in your spine. The liquid-like soft material inside them can either rupture or bulge and pressure the surrounding nerves.
While this can cause back pain in most cases, you can also have a ruptured or bulging disc without pain in your spine. Disc disease is a common condition that is hard to diagnose and identify unless you take an X-ray scan.
The discs in the back are prone to all sorts of injuries and disorders. Unfortunately, things tend to become even worse with age as the risk of back pain increases. One of the most common causes of back pain associated with discs in the back is a hernia. The outside of the disc can either herniate or tear.
A herniated disc, also known as a ruptured or slipped disc, occurs when the liquid-filled cushion extends outside its normal position and forces the surrounding cartilage to push against the nerve roots on the spinal cord.
That results in pressuring and compressing the nerve root at its exit from the spinal cord. This type of disc injury occurs suddenly, typically after twisting the back or lifting something heavy. A herniated disc can also cause sciatica.
It occurs when a herniated disc puts pressure on the sciatic nerve, which connects the spine to the legs. As a result, sciatica causes pain on both feet and legs. A person suffering from sciatica usually feels a burning and piercing sensation, best described as the pins and needles feeling.
Arthritis is a health condition that causes inflammation of the joints. When it comes to lower back pain, osteoarthritis is a condition that affects the lumbar spine. If left untreated, arthritis in the lumbar spine can narrow the space around the spine and lead to a condition called spinal stenosis.
This condition leads to the further narrowing of the spinal columns, putting pressure on spinal nerves and the spinal cord, causing numbing pain in the lower back and lower parts of the body. Pressure on the spinal cord and spinal nerves create compression on the spinal cord and nerve roots, causing symptoms such as:
- Numbness anywhere in the body
If you’re experiencing any of these symptoms when walking, sitting, or standing, you might want to visit your doctor.
Osteoporosis is a serious health condition affecting your bones, making them brittle and porous. If you’re suffering from osteoporosis, your lower spine’s vertebrae become porous and develop tiny but painful fractures that can cause further deterioration of your lumbar spine, vertebrae, etc.
What Are Some Other Causes of Lower Back Pain?
Back pain is a common nuisance for millions of people worldwide. Anyone can develop it, even children. Let’s review some of the other causes that might be the root of your back pain symptoms:
- Fibromyalgia – considered a long-term or chronic back pain, this condition causes feelings of burning sensation and tenderness in the tendons, muscles, and joints;
- Spondylitis – a condition that causes inflammation of the joints between vertebrae (spinal bones)
- Spondylosis – even though spondylosis is mostly related to ageing, the rate and location of this degenerative disorder are specific to each individual. Spondylosis is a degenerative spinal disorder that can cause deterioration of the normal spinal structure and function and abnormal spine curvatures.
Other conditions that can result in lower back pain are spine curvatures caused by lordosis, kyphosis, and scoliosis. All three congenital conditions cause abnormal curvatures and disorders in the spine. They can be mitigated, treated, and healed if diagnosed early in childhood and adolescence.
However, if left untreated, these spine disorders can cause posture issues and pain due to putting pressure on:
Low back pain can also occur as the result or consequence of certain diseases and health conditions, such as:
- Cancer of the spinal cord
- Kidney and bladder infections
- Infections of the spine
- Uterine fibroids
- Ovarian cysts
Acute back pain can be easily treated and mitigated. It can last only a couple of days or a few weeks, depending on the cause. However, chronic back pain is a more serious condition that can last for months, years, or even a lifetime.
Other risk factors associated with lower back pain include:
- Age – lower back pain troubles start around age 30–40. It’s a common condition for older people;
- Lack of exercise – inactivity is among the most common causes of back pain. Unused and weak muscles in your back can easily lead to developing back pain;
- Excess weight – excess weight puts extra stress on your neck, back, abdomen, hips, knees, and feet, causing back pain, as well as feelings of weakness, tiredness, etc.;
- Improper lifting – if you regularly hit the gym, you should know that improper lifting (where you use your back instead of your legs) can cause back pain;
- Psychological conditions – stress, anxiety, and depression can increase the risk of back pain;
- Tumour – spinal tumours can occur anywhere in the body and metastasize to the spinal cord. Tumours that can affect the spine start from cancer in the lung, thyroid, kidney, prostate, or breast;
- Autoimmune disease – acute pain in the lumbar spine can also be a symptom of autoimmune conditions and diseases, such as fibromyalgia, Crohn’s disease, lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, and ankylosing spondylitis.
Most people experience at least one backache at some point in their life. Most of the time, it’s nothing to worry about. You can also feel discomfort anywhere in your back, although most people experience back pain in the lower back area because it supports most of the body’s weight and is most prone to injuries.
What Causes Sudden Lower Back Pain?
Sudden or acute back pain can occur just after you have an accident, suffer an injury, sit in one position for a long time, move suddenly, or lift a heavy object. Sudden trauma or injury to the ligaments and muscles supporting the spine is the most common cause of acute pain in the lower spine area.
Sudden lower back pain may be caused by:
- Pulled back muscle;
- Tear, sprain, or strain to the ligaments and muscles in the back;
- Muscle spasms (very tense muscles);
- Compression fractures to the spine;
- Fracture of the vertebrae or the spinal cord;
- A leaking abdominal aortic aneurysm;
- Conditions caused by arthritis, such as rheumatoid arthritis, psoriatic arthritis, and osteoarthritis;
- Spinal infections, such as abscess, discitis, osteomyelitis;
- Problems with pancreas or gall-bladder;
- Medical conditions associated with the female reproductive organs, including uterine fibroids, ovarian cancer and cysts, and endometriosis, can cause sudden lower back pain;
- Poor posture over time;
- Sports injuries (in sports where large forces of impact or twisting are involved);
- Sudden movements that put too much pressure or stress on the lumbar spine, such as a fall;
- Lifting heavy objects;
- Acute or chronic pain around the sacroiliac joint or the back of the pelvis.
Due to heavy use, the nerves, discs, ligaments, muscles, and bones in your lumbar spine are prone to both wear and tear and injury over time, causing you to experience mild or severe pain in the lower back.
You can easily recognize whether you have a problem or not by the following these back pain symptoms:
- The pain in your lower back persists for a few weeks;
- The rest doesn’t help, and the pain seems to become more severe;
- You start feeling pain in one or both legs;
- The pain extends to other parts of the body and below the knee;
- You start experiencing feelings of tingling, numbness, and weakness in one or both legs and arms;
- Your lower back pain is suddenly accompanied by other symptoms, such as unexplained weight loss, bladder and bowel problems, fever, etc.;
- Dull ache in your pelvis, hips, knees, joints, and neck;
- Tingling and sharp pain that seems to travel down one or both arms and legs;
- Stiffness in the neck and shoulders;
- Pain that becomes more intense the more you sit and doesn’t seem to improve while walking or standing;
- Difficulties with sitting, standing, sleeping, or walking;
- Shortage of breath and stiffness in the chest area;
- Pain that is only noticeable during certain periods, such as in the morning or evening.
If you’re experiencing any of these symptoms, we recommend you seek medical attention immediately. If your condition isn’t severe, a simple treatment, such as physiotherapy, osteopathy, acupuncture, and sports massage, will help remove the source of pain and discomfort. However, if your condition is severe, a professional medical approach is needed.
How Can I Stop My Lower Back Pain?
There are many things you can do to prevent or treat back pain medically to put an end to it. Since prevention is always the best solution, here are some things you can do to prevent your back from getting worse:
- Exercise – Regular exercise won’t only make your lower back pain go away but improve your overall health and make you feel better. Start working out with regular low-impact aerobic exercises that you can do at home. They won’t jolt or strain your back, but they will help to increase your endurance, strength, and flexibility. Swimming, running, wall climbing, and fast walking are all good choices.
- Build body strength and flexibility – do regular back muscle and abdominal exercises to strengthen your hips, back, and core; all leading to a healthier back;
- Maintain a normal and healthy weight – being overweight or obese puts a lot of stress on your entire body, especially your back and knees. It strains your back muscles too. Keep a healthy weight, and you’ll experience fewer back problems;
- Quit smoking – while smoking can’t cause lower back pain by itself, it can increase the risk of developing quite a few back problems;
- Learn how to use your body properly – try to work on your posture. Avoid slouching and try to maintain a neutral pelvic position and good posture to reduce the stress on your back muscles;
- Pay attention to how you sit – if you have to sit long, ensure a seat with a good swivel base, armrests, and lower back support. You can provide additional support for your lower back by placing a rolled towel or pillow in the lumbar back to maintain its natural curve. Stand up every half an hour and take a stroll to release stress in your hips and knees;
- Avoid heavy lifting – stay away from lifting heavy objects, if possible, but if you must do it, make sure you use your legs to do all the heavy work. Do not twist your back, and keep your spine straight as possible. Bend only at your knees and use your legs to lift the load but keep it close to your body.
In most cases, getting rid of acute pain in your lower back is possible by sleeping on a firm surface or sitting on supportive chairs. If your condition requires medical treatment, you have plenty of options there too.
Osteopathy is a therapeutic approach used to diagnose and address the main cause of your lower back pain through a series of manual therapies and specialized rehabilitation exercise programs.
Acupuncture can help relieve back pain and reduce stress, inflammation, and tension in your muscles. This natural medical treatment can be effective for both acute and chronic back pain.
A sports massage is an excellent way to apply a deep tissue massage treatment that manipulates the muscles in your back and relieves restrictions, tightness, and stress. It also helps break down knots and remove spasms, restoring mobility around painful and stiff joints.
The best way to determine the best course of action for your specific back problem is to visit your doctor and do a series of tests to clearly diagnose the main cause of your problem and address your condition accordingly. If you have any questions about proceeding, contact us today to book a free telephone consultation with an expert therapist.
What is the most common cause of lower back pain?
Top causes of lower back pain are herniated discs, degenerative disc disease, disc tear, spondylolisthesis, vertebral fractures, muscle tear, pulled back muscle, spinal stenosis, pinched nerve, abnormal curvatures of the spine, muscle or ligament strain, ruptured or bulging discs, arthritis, osteoporosis, inactive lifestyle, excessive weight, and age.
Persons who lead a sedentary lifestyle develop acute back pain that can gradually become persistent and turn into a full-time chronic condition. Problems with tendons, ligaments, muscles, discs, and bones in your bone can also cause pain in the lumbar spine.
Mechanical lower back pain is often caused by a sudden and awkward spinal movement that affects soft tissues, muscles, ligaments, vertebrae, intervertebral discs, and facet joints.
When should I be worried about lower back pain?
You should see your doctor or healthcare provider about lower back pain if you have:
- Pain that persists and doesn’t get better after a week of home treatment and care;
- Weakness, numbness, and tingling in your arms and legs that gradually turn into pain;
- Severe muscle spasms or pain that prevents you from working and performing normal activities;
- Bladder, bowel, weight loss, or fever problems or any other unexplained symptoms;
- If the pain lasts more than four weeks;
- if the pain becomes more severe as time goes by;
- If you’ve recently recovered from a back injury, but the pain comes back;
- Increasing weakness in your legs;
- Severe stomach pain;
- Pain that keeps getting worse in certain positions or at certain times;
- Unexplained weight loss;
- Pain or numbness in the glutes or groin.
If you’ve just recently experienced any of these symptoms, seek medical attention immediately and consult with professional therapists on how to proceed. Sometimes, the pain can be severe for no good reason.
There are also situations when a dull ache turns out to be a serious condition. Since it’s virtually impossible to ascertain the main cause of your problem without proper examination, seeking medical help is the best way to avoid additional problems.