Causes of Lower Back Pain
Causes of lower back pain can sometimes be difficult to identify. For up to 85 percent of sufferers, the source will never be determined. The following causes of lower back pain, however, are among the most common.
lumbar strains are in no short supply. Often, they can be identified as a stretch injury to the ligaments, tendons or muscles of the lower back, probably from helping your brother-in-law move an old couch from his second story apartment. A stretch injury to the lower back is called a lumbar strain.
Sometimes people twist their back while exerting themselves, say during exercise. The discomfort is often immediate, but can become more severe after a period of rest, such as the next morning when you try to get out of bed. The pain can range from mild to extreme and can become surprisingly severe depending on the degree of the strain.
Slipped or Ruptured Disc (Herniated Disc)
Your spine is a column of 33 bones (vertebra) stacked one on top of the other with nerve tissue running down the entire length. Between each bone is a soft cushion called a disc. The discs between the vertebrae act as shock absorbers and allow your spine to flex and bend. A slipped disc occurs when a compressed disc bulges and its gel-like center (nucleus pulposus) penetrates the outer layer (annulus fibrosis) and encroaches on the spinal nerves. Think of compressing a jelly donut. Discs have a similar structure and when ruptured, the jelly oozes and has to go somewhere, often right into a nerve.
Spinal discs lose moisture and become thinner with age and are more likely to herniate after the second decade of life, making a slipped disc one of the more common lower back pain causes. About a third of people over the age of 20 have herniated discs, though only about 3 percent experience enough pain to seek treatment.
Spondylolysis usually occurs when you are younger and more active, but often causes pain when you are older. Minor fractures or cracks due to repetitive hyper extension, such as in athletic activity, causes one vertebra to slip over the other. In some cases the lack of moisture and volume in the discs can contribute to the slippage, decreasing the disc height to cause a vertebra to slide over another when aggravated by certain activities.
Symptoms of a slipped disc can be sudden pain in the lower extremities, giving the sensation of an electric shock; tingling and numbness or the feeling of pins and needles; muscle weakness and even bowel or bladder problems. The good news is that spondylolysis is often treatable. See your doctor for options.
Sciatic nerve pain is easy to identify as it is often an uncomfortable tingling or pinched sensation in the leg or buttocks. The pain can start at the lower back or hip and can radiate down the entire leg, even to the foot. The sciatic nerve is the largest nerve in the body and begins from the base of the spine (lumbar region), runs through the buttocks and down the leg. Pressure, either from a herniated disc or other irritation, can push against the sciatic nerve and cause a great deal of pain. Sciatica can cause a burning pain, numbness and tingling throughout the lower back and lower limbs.
Sciatic nerve pain can be relieved by reducing the pressure on the nerve. This can be achieved with stretches and low-impact, muscle balance exercise that focus on the pelvic area. Anti-inflammatory drugs may also be useful, but check with your doctor first. If pain persists it may be necessary to see a specialist.