Have you ever had low back pain? If you have, you are certainly not alone. Approximately 80% of the population will have a bout of lower back pain at some time in their lives. This pain can range in severity and symptoms. Some will feel dull achy pain and others may have sharp and shooting pain.
Although there are many causes of lower back pain, three causes that stand out are disc injury, degenerative disc disease and biomechanical problems of the lower back.
The intervertebral disc, or “disc” for short, is a jelly-like pad of tissue that sits between each vertebra in the spine. They are composed of two parts: an outer fibrous ring called the annulus and a soft middle layer called the nucleus pulposus. The discs act as shock absorbers to cushion your bones from sudden movement like bending over, jumping up and down or twisting too far.
However, disc injuries can occur when the outer layer is torn or ruptured. A spinal disc injury is the most common cause of lower back pain, with an estimated 50-80% of low back problems being attributed to a herniated or ruptured ligamentous disc in between vertebrae. This type of injury usually occurs as a result of trauma such as auto accidents and falls among other things, but can also happen on its own without any external force. Disc injuries without external trauma are often due to uneven load distribution in your body caused by age or weight gain which leads to weakening muscles like those found near the pelvis. As mentioned earlier, when there is too much pressure exerted onto one side that exceeds what the discs are capable of handling they may fail causing a tear or herniation in the disc.
If you have a disc bulge or herniation, you may experience symptoms including pain and numbness in the back, buttocks or legs as well as shooting sensations that go down one of your legs. This is because of nerve roots being affected by a disc injury leading to “pinched” nerves. You may also experience some pain due to muscles spasms which may make it difficult for you to move around easily.
Over time the intervertebral discs, through wear and tear can break down. This condition, known as degenerative disc disease, is a common cause for low back pain in the older population. This is also commonly called arthritis of the spine.
Symptoms of degenerative arthritis in the lower back include:
-Lower back pain that ranges from mild to moderate
-Fatigue and weakness in the legs
-Progressive difficulty with activities such as bending, lifting or twisting.
Lower back arthritis can be diagnosed when you schedule an appointment with your chiropractor or healthcare provider. Commonly, an exam and x-rays of the lower back can help to determine if you do have degenerative disc disease in the area of the lower back.
Another cause of lower back pain includes mechanical issues of the lower back and pelvis. This can be broken down into two separate issues.
The lumbar spine and pelvis are often influenced by changes that a person may not have much control over. These include an anatomical short leg (one leg is slightly shorter than the other) or scoliosis.
Postural changes of the spine and pelvis often occur when we are sitting or standing for long periods of time. This can lead to the lumbar spine and pelvis being in a poor position, which may eventually cause pain such as lower back pain.
Both anatomical and postural changes of the lower back region can cause abnormal stress on the lumbar muscles and vertebrae, which can lead to pain. Some muscles can tighten and become less flexible, other muscle groups can become weaker and less able to stabilize. The added stress on the joints can lead to excess wear and tear.
If you are struggling with lower back pain, there are treatments that may be quite effective for you. You’ll want to start with an evaluation and most will begin with more conservative type care – many try to avoid drugs and surgery.
Chiropractic care can be an effective approach in the treatment of your pain. Chiropractic care can be used to treat both acute and chronic pain by improving your range of motion, reducing inflammation in the area, as well as addressing any biomechanical problems that may exist.
Addressing your lower back pain now will greatly help you down the road.