Lower back pain can be quite painful, causing problems with everyday activities. The pain can make it difficult to sleep, sit down, walk, or lift. The pain can be irritating, or it can be debilitating.
Common Causes of Lower Back Pain
There are a number of common causes for lower back pain because of the many components that make up this area. Typical causes of lower back pain include:
- Irritation of the large nerve roots that go to the legs
- Disc degeneration
- Bone, joint, and ligament damage
- Strained lower back muscles
- Irritation of the smaller nerves in the back
If any of these areas are irritated, the pain can radiate to other parts of the body. A person experiencing lower back pain may also have lower back muscle spasms. While this doesn’t sound too awful, these spasms can be very painful. Due to there being so many causes of lower back pain, the degree of pain can vary from person to person.
Lower Back Pain Symptoms and Diagnosis
Adults ages 30 to 60 are more likely to experience lower back pain because of muscle strain. Herniated discs and degenerative disc disease also cause symptoms. Those over the age of 60 experiencing pain can have degenerative disc disease, spinal stenosis, or osteoarthritis. Symptoms of a problem can include pain that feels like an ache; pain in the groin, hips, thighs, and lower back; changing positions relieves pain; and pain may worsen when sitting.
When symptoms are experienced, a myelogram, MRI scan, x-ray, or CT scan will be used to make the diagnosis. The diagnosis will reveal a certain type of pain so that the doctor can determine what happens next.
Classification of Lower Back Pain and Treatment
There are three types of lower back pain. They are:
- Lumbar Radiculopathy – This is also known as “sciatica,” and many people have it. The sciatic nerve’s roots become compressed, and it causes more severe pain in the lower back and leg. A person may also experience numbness. Most of this happens on just one side of the body.
- Axial low back pain – This is very common. The pain is confined to the lower back and travels to the buttocks or legs. The pain can be dull or sharp and severe enough to interfere with everyday activities. Physical activity or sitting in a specific position can make it worse.
- Low back pain with referred pain – This is also a radiating pain in the buttocks, upper thigh, and groin. Sometimes the pain can go below the knee. Patients describe the pain as achy and dull with different intensities. The pain is very similar to axial low back pain.
It is very important to determine the type of pain because the type determines treatment. While rest sometimes suffices, along with heat and ice packs, medications may also be used to control pain. Physical therapy may be ordered in order to strengthen the lower back muscles. However, depending on the condition causing the pain, surgery may be needed in order to rectify the problem.