Nearly 65 million Americans each year report having a recent episode of lower back pain, and nearly 8 percent of all adults in the United States alone suffer from chronic back pain of some kind. In fact, lower back pain is so common that it is the leading cause for missed days at work, a number that has steadily increased over the past few decades. It is no surprise that the fast-paced world we live in has begun to take its toll on our backs. This issue has become so problematic that more than 200 million days a year are spent in bed by those who experience back pain.
Lower back pain can range from mild, to moderate, to very severe. It can be persistent, nagging, dull, or so debilitating that it makes accomplishing any activity practically impossible. It can come on suddenly, with little to no warning, or it can start slowly and grow over time, gradually getting worse to the point that it becomes almost unbearable. There are many symptoms associated with back pain, typically depending on the underlying cause. For example;
- Dull, achy pain contained to the lower back
- Burning or stinging pain that migrates to places like the thighs, lower legs, or feet
- Tightness in the lower back, pelvis, or hips
- Muscle spasms or pain and stiffness in the lower back
- Pain that gets worse with prolonged standing or sitting
- Difficulty standing, getting up, walking, or transitioning from these positions
These are just a few of the symptoms you may experience with lower back pain. It is important to see a health professional for medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment if you experience pain that lasts longer than a few weeks, or if the condition continues to worsen and become more painful.
Lower back pain is usually placed into three categories. Acute low back pain lasts for a few days or weeks, and is considered to be the body’s normal response to injury. The body should heal itself as the pain will gradually subside. Subacute low back pain lasts anywhere between 6 weeks and 3 months. This pain is usually mechanical (such as a muscle sprain or joint pain) and can take longer to heal. Medical help may be necessary and is advisable if the pain is severe. Chronic back pain is defined as lasting longer than 3 months. Research suggests that nearly 20 percent of patients who experience subacute low back pain will also develop chronic back pain issues. This type of pain requires medical intervention and routine treatment.
There are many reasons why one may experience lower back pain. These could range from changes in hormones, to injury, to disease. That is why persistent or prolonged lower back pain is especially important to have checked out by a medical professional, even more so if you recently experienced a work related injury or a physical trauma such as a car accident. Listed below are some of the most common causes of lower back pain;
- Sprains or Strains- Sprains of the ligaments or strains of the muscle in the lower back caused by extreme physical activity or trauma can lead to significant pain. Physical therapy is often the best treatment for torn or stretched muscles and ligaments in the lower back.
- Disc Injuries- Herniated or ruptured discs occur when the cartilage surrounding the disc pushes against the spinal cord or nerve roots. These discs serve as protective cushions against the vertebrae. Pain can occur when they slip out of place or rupture. Physical therapy is often a recommended treatment for this condition.
- Sciatica- Sciatica is sharp back pain that radiates through the buttocks and down the legs. This occurs when the sciatic nerve becomes compressed. Numbness and tingling have also been known to occur.
- Abnormal Spinal Curvature- Conditions like scoliosis, lordosis, and kyphosis are all related to abnormal curvatures of the spine. Back pain is a well-known symptom of having a misshapen spine. These conditions may be inherited or as a result of other issues like arthritis or osteoporosis.
- Cauda Equina Syndrome- This is a rare condition that develops when something damages or compresses the cauda equina, a bunch of nerves in the lower part of the spinal cord. This condition usually results from a herniated disc, but other causes are possible. This is generally a medical emergency that requires immediate treatment.
- Spinal Stenosis- Spinal stenosis occurs when the spinal column narrows, putting pressure on the spinal cord and the spinal nerves. This results in the compression of the nerve roots or the spinal cord by way of bony spurs or soft tissues such as discs.
- Arthritis- Lumbar arthritis or spinal arthritis is another common cause of lower back pain. Arthritis is the swelling or inflammation of joints and has been known to worsen with age. Symptoms include pain, swelling, and reduced range of motion.
- PMS, Pregnancy, or Endometriosis- Many conditions that women experience can lead to lower back pain. PMS (premenstrual symptom) has been known to cause lower-back pain, as well as pregnancy. Conditions like endometriosis, where the uterine lining grows outside of the uterus, have also been known to cause lower back pain.
- Kidney Problems- Several problems with your kidneys have been known to cause lower back pain, as they are located just under your ribcage on the back of your abdomen. Kidney infections or kidney stones often are associated with extreme lower back pain.
It is important to keep in mind that this is not a complete list of all the causes of lower back pain. If you are experiencing what seems to be prolonged and lasting lower back pain, that is just not getting better, it may be time to consider getting some help. Here at Thrive Chiropractic, we specialize in lower back pain care and can help diagnosis the reason why you may be experiencing this pain. We are always here to help and no problem is too small to treat. We understand how lower back pain can affect your daily life and we would love the chance to help get you back out on your feet!