Lower back pain is a common cause for visits to the doctor.
According to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS), low back pain is the most common cause of job-related disability. At least 80 percent of Americans will experience low back pain in their lifetime.
Most low back pain is the result of an injury, such as muscle sprains or strains due to sudden movements or poor body mechanics while lifting heavy objects.
Low back pain can also be the result of certain diseases, such as:
- cancer of the spinal cord
- a ruptured or herniated disc
- kidney infections
- infections of the spine
Acute back pain can last anywhere from a few days to a few weeks, while chronic back pain is pain that lasts longer than three months.
Low back pain is more likely to occur in individuals between the ages of 30 and 50. This is partly due to the changes that occur in the body with aging. As you grow older, there’s a reduction in the fluid content between the vertebrae in the spine.
This means discs in the spine experience irritation more easily. You also lose some muscle tone, which makes the back more prone to injury. This is why strengthening your back muscles and using good body mechanics are helpful in preventing low back pain.
The muscles and ligaments in the back can stretch or tear due to excess activity. Symptoms include pain and stiffness in the lower back, as well as muscle spasms. Rest and physical therapy are remedies for these symptoms.
The discs in the back are prone to injury. This risk increases with age. The outside of the disc can tear or herniate.
A herniated disc, which is also known as a slipped or ruptured disc, occurs when the cartilage surrounding the disc pushes against the spinal cord or nerve roots. The cushion that sits between the spinal vertebrae extends outside its normal position.
This can result in compression of the nerve root as it exits from the spinal cord and through the vertebral bones. Disc injury usually occurs suddenly after lifting something or twisting the back. Unlike a back strain, pain from a disc injury usually lasts for more than 72 hours.
Sciatica can occur with a herniated disc if the disc presses on the sciatic nerve. The sciatic nerve connects the spine to the legs. As a result, sciatica can cause pain in the legs and feet. This pain usually feels like burning, or pins and needles.
There are many ways to prevent low back pain. Practicing prevention techniques may also help lessen the severity of your symptoms if you have a lower back injury.
- exercising the muscles in your abdomen and back
- losing weight if you’re overweight
- lifting items properly by bending at the knees and lifting with the legs
- maintaining proper posture
You may also want to:
- sleep on a firm surface
- sit on supportive chairs that are at the correct height
- avoid high-heeled shoes
- quit smoking, if you smoke
Nicotine causes degeneration of spinal discs and also reduces blood flow.
Talk to your doctor about your lower back pain. They can diagnose the cause and help you create a treatment plan that works best for you.