Lower Back Pain: What Could It Be
Do you have lower back pain? You are not alone. Anyone can experience lower back pain at any time, even if you dont have a prior injury or any of the risk factors. It is not always serious and can often get better on its own. But in some cases pain is your bodys way of telling you that something isnt right.
Learn more about lower back pain and what causes it from rehabilitation physician Akhil Chhatre, M.D., who specializes in back pain in the Johns Hopkins Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation.
Arthritis Of The Spine
Arthritis of the spine the slow degeneration of the spinal joints is the most frequent cause of lower back pain. All of us experience wear and tear as we age, and it is normal for your lower back to start acting up as you get older. As the cartilage breaks down between the spinal joints, surrounding tissues may become inflamed. The inflammation and the thinning of cartilage increase friction in the joints, which may cause pain in the lower back.
The Details: But Wait Lower Back Pain Gets More Complicated
Not only is chronic back pain hard to live with, it can also be difficult for practitioners to diagnose due to the overlap of symptoms with other conditions. Traditional diagnostic methods usually begin with a full physical exam and overview of your medical history.
From there, depending on the severity and duration of the pain, your doctor may request blood work to look for signs of inflammation or infection imaging studies such as X-rays, CT scans, or MRIs to look for structural damage or bone or DEXA scans to check for any bone disorders or bone infections and electrodiagnostics to check nerve function with electromyography or nerve conduction studies.11,12
Your observations can provide some of the most important clues to help your doctor make the right diagnosis. Take notes about your condition and bring them with you to your appointment so that you can precisely describe the pain youre experiencing.
Include details about the pain, such as whether its burning, stabbing or aching the time of day when your pain is at its worst and what youre doing at that time and the exact location or locations of the pain within the lower back region.13
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What Are Some Usual Lower Pain In The Back Causes
The origin of lower back pain are in some cases considered as being mechanical, all-natural or idiopathic. Often back conditions are hereditary or gotten showing the issue creates later on in life.
Mechanical lower back pain is often triggered by back motion and likewise includes spine structures, such as the aspect joints, intervertebral discs, vertebral bodies , tendons, muscle mass or soft cells.
Organic lower back ache is credited to ailment, such as back cancer cells.
Idiopathic describes an unknown reason.
When you prepare a browse through for back suffering, these are a few of points your physician might attempt to locate or rule out.
Sprains and also stress. Tendon strains along with muscular tissue or tendon exertions are just one of the most typical sources of lower pain in the back. Theyre often pertaining to overuse.
Degenerative disc problem. While the name appears uneasy, it merely shows you have in fact a destroyed disc creating discomfort.
In time, discs end up being thinner in addition to flatter as a result of damages. That leaves them much less able to sustain the vertebrae as well as even more possible to tear .
The safety covering on intervertebral discs can tear in time. The soft inner disc cells may press with the external layer when this occurs. A disc that slips or extends misplaced is referred to as a herniated disc, extending disc, or glided disc.
And it doesnt stop here.
Sensations That Might Indicate A Medical Emergency
1. Sharp pain rather than a dull ache: This could indicate a torn muscle or ligament, or a problem with an internal organ in the back or side.2. Radiating pain: This pain “moves” or shoots to the glutes or legs, which could indicate a nerve compression condition.
3. Sudden weakness in the legs: Limb weakness can be caused by compressed nerves in the spine due to conditions like sciatica or spinal stenosis. However, sudden leg weakness could also indicate a stroke.4. Incontinence: Back pain paired with inability to control the bowels or bladder might be a sign of serious nerve compression or a spine infection, such as discitis or meningitis.5. Numbness or pins and needles in the groin or glutes: This is known as saddle anesthesia and is also a sign of a serious nerve or spine condition.
If you have leg weakness, incontinence, and numbness together, you might have cauda equina syndrome, a serious illness characterized by spinal cord nerve damage. This is a medical emergency, and patients usually need surgery immediately to decompress the nerves and reduce permanent damage.
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When To See A Specialist For Lower Back Pain
If you’re experiencing lower back pain that’s not responding to rest and self-care, it’s time to consider seeing a spine specialist.
“A spine specialist will likely perform a physical exam as well as one or more imaging scans to diagnose the root cause of your lower back pain. Depending on your diagnosis, he or she will then design a treatment plan aimed at alleviating your pain and preventing it from disrupting the everyday activities you enjoy,” says Dr. Palmer.
Can Back Pain Be Prevented
Recurring back pain resulting from improper body mechanics may be prevented by avoiding movements that jolt or strain the back, maintaining correct posture, and lifting objects properly. Many work-related injuries are caused or aggravated by stressors such as heavy lifting, contact stress , vibration, repetitive motion, and awkward posture.Recommendations for keeping ones back healthy
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How Is Lower Back Pain Diagnosed
Your provider will ask about your symptoms and do a physical exam. To check for broken bones or other damage, your provider may order imaging studies. These studies help your provider see clear pictures of your vertebrae, disks, muscles, ligaments and tendons.
Your provider may order:
- Spine X-ray, which uses radiation to produce images of bones.
- MRI, which uses a magnet and radio waves to create pictures of bones, muscles, tendons and other soft tissues.
- CT scan, which uses X-rays and a computer to create 3D images of bones and soft tissues.
Electromyography to test nerves and muscles and check for neuropathy , which can cause tingling or numbness in your legs.
Depending on the cause of pain, your provider may also order blood tests or urine tests. Blood tests can detect genetic markers for some conditions that cause back pain . Urine tests check for kidney stones, which cause pain in the flank .
Can Knee Pain Come From Your Spine
Most people assume if they have knee pain, it is due to a problem with the knee joint. This is not always the case. While the discomfort can be due to a knee condition, it can also be the result of a disc protrusion or a pinched nerve in your lower back. Working with your doctor and a physical therapist can help determine if that is the case.
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So What Exactly Is Lower Back Pain
Lower back pain is one of the most common health problems among adults worldwide, and one of the most prevalent causes of job-related disability: It affects 80% of the population at least once throughout their lifetime, according to studies in JAMA and Rheumatology International.1,2
While many people will only experience acute pain that lasts for two to six weeks, about one in five people will develop chronic back pain, which is defined as pain that lasts for more than 12 weeks, says the National Institute for Neurological Disorders and Stroke.3
Not only is low back pain the number one cause of activity limitation in adults younger than 45 years of age,4 but it is also the fifth most frequent reason people seek out medical care in the United States.5
Lower back pain has several causes, and it can also affect different areas of your anatomy, ranging from the spine itself to the muscles surrounding the spine.
It can be left-sided or right-sided or affect the entire area. The amount and types of physical activity you engage in, as well as your general health and physicality, are all factors that can determine the likelihood of developing a lower back injury or lower back pain.
Lower back sprains and strains 6 can be caused by something as simple as shoveling snow, doing yard work, or starting a new exercise routine. Usually, it is a twisting motion, overuse, or improper lifting that leads to a lower back sprain or strain.
How Are Back And Neck Pain Treated
If you experience acute back or neck pain, it may simply improve with some rest. Over-the-counter medicines, such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen, may also help with the discomfort. You should try to move gently during this period, so that you will not become stiff and lose mobility.
If you have chronic pain of your back and neck, you should try several remedies that may be helpful, before seeking surgical options. These include:
Hot or cold packs
Specific exercises to strengthen muscles and ease pain, such as stretching and flexing. Your health care provider can provide and demonstrate these exercises.
Aerobic exercise may be permitted and can help with your overall fitness and strength
Certain anti-inflammatory medications or muscle relaxants may be used, with your health care providers supervision
Braces or corsets for extra support
Injections for pain relief in the area
Nerve block, which decreases pain signals from the affected nerve
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Why Does My Back Hurt
There are a number of reasons, some of which may not be glaringly obvious, why you are experiencing back pain. Trauma or direct injury to the area can certainly result in acute or chronic pain, but oftentimes the cause of your back pain can be traced to something else. Some of the most common causes of back pain include:
- Muscle spasms
- Herniated disc
Seemingly harmless activities like repetitive lifting or repetitive motions such as swinging a golf club often put a strain on your muscles and ligaments and result in back pain. Chronic or degenerative conditions, such as those listed above, can also be culprits of back pain. However, if none of these things apply to you, your back pain may be the result of something else.
What Organs Can Cause Lower Back Pain
February 12, 2021 By Olivia Pryor
Lower back pain is most commonly associated with problems of the spine, but did you know that inflammation and other problems with your internal organs can also cause back pain? This type of pain usually affects one side of the back, near where the organ is located.
Irritation, inflammation, or infection of any of the organs in the central, abdominal, or pelvic region can produce lower back pain. Lets talk about some of the main organs that can cause this pain, and where you can go for an evaluation and treatment:
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How To Tell If Your Lower Back Pain Is Muscle
by Dr. Don DuffAug 20, 2019
The low back is a fairly complicated structure, so its no wonder the majority of peopleexperts estimate up to 80% of usexperience pain in this area of our bodies at some point in our lives. In fact, back pain is one of the most common reasons for visits to the doctors office.
The key to relieving back pain is understanding the cause. But diagnosing the of a patients pain isnt always a straightforward exercise. It could be muscle, joint, or disc-related in some cases, it may even arise from issues unrelated to the back. So how can you tell if your back pain is muscle- or disc-related, or attributable to something else entirely? Well cover all the possibilities in this post.
What Are The Risk Factors For Developing Low Back Pain
Anyone can have back pain. Factors that can increase the risk for low back pain include:
Age: The first attack of low back pain typically occurs between the ages of 30 and 50, and back pain becomes more common with advancing age. Loss of bone strength from osteoporosis can lead to fractures, and at the same time, muscle elasticity and tone decrease. The intervertebral discs begin to lose fluid and flexibility with age, which decreases their ability to cushion the vertebrae. The risk of spinal stenosis also increases with age.
Fitness level: Back pain is more common among people who are not physically fit. Weak back and abdominal muscles may not properly support the spine. Weekend warriorspeople who go out and exercise a lot after being inactive all weekare more likely to suffer painful back injuries than people who make moderate physical activity a daily habit. Studies show that low-impact aerobic exercise can help maintain the integrity of intervertebral discs.
Weight gain: Being overweight, obese, or quickly gaining significant amounts of weight can put stress on the back and lead to low back pain.
Genetics: Some causes of back pain, such as ankylosing spondylitis , have a genetic component.
Smoking: It can restrict blood flow and oxygen to the discs, causing them to degenerate faster.
Backpack overload in children: A backpack overloaded with schoolbooks and supplies can strain the back and cause muscle fatigue.
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Types Of Leg Pain That Are Actually Caused By A Back Problem
No doubt about it, your legs endure a lot of stress throughout your life, leading to a general wear and tear that may result in pain. However, not all sources of leg pain are caused by issues related to the joints, muscles, ligaments, tendons, or cartilage that make up your lower extremities.
Its possible that the electric shock sensation you feel shooting down your leg every time you reposition your body is due to a back problem. At Texas Spine Consultants in Addison and Plano, Texas, our orthopedic surgeons specialize in spine health and help many people get relief from their leg pain by treating the underlying back problem responsible for the traveling pain sensations.
To save you from unnecessary testing and treatment of your legs, we want to share with you the types of leg pain that are actually caused by a back problem.
Complementary And Alternative Techniques Include:
- Acupuncture is moderately effective for chronic low back pain. It involves inserting thin needles into precise points throughout the body and stimulating them , which may cause the body to release naturally occurring painkilling chemicals such as endorphins, serotonin, and acetylcholine.
- Behavioral approaches include:
- Biofeedback involves attaching electrodes to the skin and using an electromyography machine that allows people to become aware of and control their breathing, muscle tension, heart rate, and skin temperature people regulate their response to pain by using relaxation techniques
- Cognitive therapy involves using relaxation and coping techniques to ease back pain
Spinal injections include:Trigger point injections can relax knotted muscles that may contribute to back pain. An injection or series of injections of a local anesthetic and often a corticosteroid drug into the trigger point can lessen or relieve pain.
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Bony Encroachment Causes Lower Back Pain
Bony encroachment: Any condition that results in movement or growth of the vertebrae of the lumbar spine can limit the space for the adjacent spinal cord and nerves. Causes of bony encroachment of the spinal nerves include foraminal narrowing , spondylolisthesis , and spinal stenosis . Spinal-nerve compression in these conditions can lead to sciatica pain that radiates down the lower extremities. Spinal stenosis can cause lower-extremity pains that worsen with walking and are relieved by resting . Treatment of these afflictions varies, depending on their severity, and ranges from rest and exercises to epidural cortisone injections and surgical decompression by removing the bone that is compressing the nervous tissue.
Anatomy Of The Lower Back
The lumbar spine is a complex structure composed of many different bones, intervertebral discs, joints, ligaments, muscles, and nerves that constantly work together to perform various movements smoothly and painlessly. The five vertebrae that make up the lumbar spine are the largest and strongest movable vertebrae.
Your lower back is the area that goes from your lowest rib to the upper part of your buttocks. There, the vertebral column or spine has a normal inward curvature called lordosis. This lordosis plays different roles, including:
- Evenly distributing the weight from your upper body to your lower extremities
- Reducing stress and impact on your spine
- Helping balance the weight of your head on your spine
- Allowing for a more efficient gait thanks to weight distribution
The spinal cord comes to an end between L1 and L2. A smaller bundle of spinal roots and rootlets forms the cauda equina, which continues down to the tailbone. Spinal nerves exit the spine between each lumbar vertebra, and these nerve roots come together to form the sciatic nerve.
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