Lower back pain: the majority of us will experience it at one point or another during our lives. The anatomy of the back and spine is remarkably complex and consists of an assortment of muscles, ligaments, joints, and bone, and problems with any of these areas can be the cause of your lower back pain. While some cases of lower back pain will resolve with rest, relaxation, and home remedies like pain meds or heat or ice packs; but there are times when you need to seek out the help of your doctor or a pain management specialist. In this blog, we’ll cover mechanical pain, also known as axial pain, which means pain primarily coming from the muscles, ligaments, joints, or bones in and around the spine.
Muscular causes of lower back pain
A common cause of lower back pain is a muscular strain. Heavy lifting without proper lifting techniques can cause injury due to muscle strain. Even lifestyle habits like wearing high heels or consistently poor posture can result in lower back pain.
Joint and ligament causes of lower back pain
The spine consists of facet joints and ligaments. Facet joint syndrome occurs most often in the lower back and is caused by aging or injury to the lower back. Another possible cause is ankylosing spondylitis. This condition is a form of arthritis that affects the joints and ligaments along the spine. It causes inflammation.
Bone and disc causes of lower back pain
Several causes of lower back pain originate in the lumbar (lower) spinal column, which consists of bones (the vertebrae) and discs. One of these is spinal stenosis. In this condition, the spaces in the vertebrae become smaller, causing the spinal cord to squeeze, thus causing pain. Osteoporosis can lead to small fractures along the spine. And arthritis can cause spine pain as well, in addition to being a possible cause of spinal stenosis.
As for the discs in the back, a condition can occur where a disc becomes herniated, also known as a “slipped disc.” It is when the cartilage in the spine hits a nerve in the spinal column. Sciatic nerve pain occurs when a slipped disc hits the sciatic nerve, which results in sharp pain in the lower back and one or both legs.
When to see a doctor
While it’s very common to get lower back pain, and it often will go away after a few weeks with some at-home care or lifestyle adjustments, there are certain times you’ll want to get it checked out by a doctor. If the pain lasts longer than 2 weeks or is getting worse instead of getting better, seek help. If the pain is severe, don’t wait it out. Also, seek a doctor’s help if the pain radiates down the legs or causes numbness or weakness in the legs. If you are experiencing bladder or bowel control issues along with back pain, see a doctor as soon as possible. And of course, if you have pain as a result of an accident or injury to the lower back, see a doctor. Because there are many possible causes of lower back pain (in addition to other causes not discussed here such as kidney stones, pelvic floor conditions, or endometriosis, for example); it’s best to see a pain management specialist or a doctor who specializes in the spine, to get an accurate diagnosis.