Healthy Living

Lower Back Pain: What is it?

Lower Back Pain: What is it?

Key Takeaways

  • Lower back pain is a very common presentation among the elderly population.
  • Lower back pain is so common and it accounts for 40% of missed days at work.
  • Visit a doctor if your back pain is associated with certain symptoms, such as fever with chills, weight loss, weakness of legs, severe abdominal pain, and sudden bowel or urinary incontinence.

Lower back pain is a very common presentation among the elderly population. The lower back is the connection between the upper body and the lower body and it bears most of the body’s weight.

Lower back pain can be caused due to various causes affecting the spinal muscles, nerves, bones, the vertebral discs or tendons in the lower spine.  Lower back pain is so common and it accounts for 40% of missed days at work.

Common causes of back pain include:

  • Irritation of the large nerve roots supplying your legs.
  • Irritation of small nerves that supply the lower limb.
  • Straining of the lower back muscles.
  • Damage to bones, ligaments or joints.
  • Degenerating or prolapsed intervertebral discs in the lower spine.

All of these causes can give rise to back pain or pain that radiates to other parts of the body. Lower back pain can be a dull or sharp pain, localized to one area or felt over a broader area. 

The signs and symptoms of lower back pain and its severity will vary from person to person. A simple strain in the lower back will cause extreme pain and result in an emergency visit to the hospital whereas a prolapsed disc may cause mild, intermittent or no symptoms.

Lower back pains are often not considered as a disease. Although not considered to be serious, it does not mean that you can simply forget about the lower back pain.

Common causes of lower back pain in adults

Some causes tend to occur more commonly in younger adults compared to older adults. For instance, in younger adults are more likely to develop from a disc prolapse or herniation whereas older adults are more likely to develop lower back pain from degeneration of the joints or from a compression fracture of the lumbar vertebrae.

The most common lower back pain is following lifting of heavy weight, which is described as a mechanical back pain. If the cause of the back pain cannot be identified, it is known as specific low back pain.

When to seek treatment for lower back pain?

Lower back pain usually does not require any urgent treatment. However, it is wise to visit your doctor if you develop lower back pain following a trauma or if it’s associated with symptoms such as fever with chills, weight loss over a short period of time, weakness of the legs, severe abdominal pain and sudden bowel or bladder incontinence i.e. passing stools or urine without your conscience.