Recently on our blog, we’ve discussed general neck pain symptoms and neck pain treatments; now, we’re taking a deeper dive, into the lower back.
Low back pain is one of the most frequent musculoskeletal complaints. Pain may arise from damage or irritation to structures of the lower back including the vertebrae (bony spine), facet joints, discs between the vertebrae, vertebral ligaments, muscles of the lower back, spinal cord, and peripheral nerves, as well as internal organs of the pelvis and abdomen (spleen, kidney, pancreas, and liver).
Acute vs. Chronic Lower Back Pain
Typically the symptoms of low back pain resolve within four weeks – acute pain – depending on the pathology associated with the complaint. However, the pain often returns, leading to a high percentage of the U.S. population with a chronic condition that requires lower back pain management.
Acute low back pain typically comes on abruptly and occurs during a specific activity. Acute lower back injury is more commonly due to overuse by excessive exercise, lifting of heavy objects, motor vehicle accidents, or any trauma involving the lower back. The anatomy typically involved in acute low back pain is the muscles and surrounding ligaments. Vertebral body fractures, ruptured discs, and spinal cord compressions can also be seen acutely with pre-existing osteoporosis, cancer, or spinal stenosis. Acute pain due to ligament and muscle injury typically responds to activity and NSAIDs (ibuprofen-like drugs). Acute back pain should be evaluated by a physician to rule out other causes like kidney stones, kidney infection, and acute pancreatitis.
In some cases of acute back pain, a specialist and proper imaging is required for immediate evaluation (emergency room, pain specialist, spine surgeon). These cases might include:
- Acute vertebral compression fractures
- Acute disc herniation
- Fever or chills
- Weakness or paralysis
- Loss of bowel or bladder control
- Spinal cord compression
Chronic low back pain is defined as pain over three to six months in duration. Typically the symptoms are more gradual and occur over an extended period of time. With chronic low back pain a person may experience pain in their back as well as down either leg. Causes of chronic low back pain are numerous and include:
- Arthritis in the facet joint
- Sacroiliac joint disease
- Spinal stenosis (narrowing of the spinal canal)
- Degenerative disc disease
- Disc protrusion
- Disc herniation
- Disc extrusion
- Facet joint osteoarthritis
- Nerve root irritation or compression (sciatica)
- Central sensitization
- Excessive breast size
- Poor posture
- Psychological and emotional factors
- Vertebral body fractures
- Ankylosing spondylitis
In our next blog, we’ll discuss the anatomy of the lower back, and how chronic conditions can arise from disk disease and more.
In the meantime, if you’re experiencing some of these symptoms or have chronic pain from one of the conditions above, schedule an appointment with us so you can get out of pain and back to your life!