Most people suffer from back pain at least once, and it is one of the leading causes of disability worldwide. In most cases, back pain can get better without surgery, but if your back pain disrupts your daily life and negatively impacts your quality of life, you should talk to your doctor about options for back pain treatment.
Back Pain Causes
Lower back pain, or lumbago, is not a disorder in itself. Lower back pain is a symptom of a few different types of medical problems. Usually, the pain is a result of one of the following:
- Injured or strained ligaments and muscles. This can be the result of incorrect heavy lifting or awkward movements. Over-activity is another common cause of injured or strained muscles and ligaments.
- Problems with the vertebrae. Vertebrae are the interlocking bones that stack on top of one another that make up the spine. The discs are the cushions between each vertebrae. Injuries to the discs are a common cause of back pain. Sometimes these discs can bulge, rupture, or slip out of place.
- Pressure on nerves. Nerves can become compressed when the discs in the spine bulge, rupture, or herniate. The pressure on the nerve that travels from the back down the leg can cause sciatica.
- Arthritis. Arthritis in the back is caused by damage and deterioration of the cartilage in the joints of the lower back. This can eventually lead to spinal stenosis.
- Osteoporosis. This condition is characterized by a thinning of the bones and loss of bone density. This can lead to fractures in the vertebrae.
- Problems with nearby organs such as kidneys
Back pain symptoms can vary. You might experience a dull ache in your lower back, an acute stabbing pain that radiates from the back down to the leg or foot, an inability to stand upright, and a decreased range of motion. When these symptoms last longer than three months, the back pain is considered chronic.
Most back pain improves with over-the-counter pain medications, but in more severe cases, stronger treatments are necessary. Surgery is usually the last resort treatment and is very rarely needed for back pain. Usually, surgery is only necessary for structural abnormalities that do not improve with conservative treatments like medicines and physical therapy. Surgery may be needed if you suffer from severe and unremitting pain or nerve compression that causes muscle weakness. Spinal fusion surgery fuses painful vertebrae into a single more solid bone, which helps eliminate painful motions. Another surgery option is the removal and replacement of discs and vertebrae to relieve pain.
Treatment of lower back pain is usually directed toward a diagnosed cause, so it is important to talk to your doctor about your back pain in case there is a more serious underlying medical condition.