Healthy Living

The Main Causes of Lower Back Pain

The Main Causes of Lower Back Pain

Key Takeaways

  • The back is composed of layers of muscles that hold the spinal column in place.
  • The spinal column is made up of vertebrae that are divided into five regions.
  • The causes of lower back pain can be complex.

Brief Anatomy

The back is composed of layers of muscles that hold the spinal column in place. It is involved in moving, twisting, and bending, which is why the back is prone to muscle strain.

The spinal column is made up of vertebrae that are divided into five regions. The spinal column provides mobility for the trunk, transmits weight of the head and body to the lower limbs, and encloses and protects the spinal cord. In between the vertebrae is the intervertebral disc. These discs act as shock absorbers and reduce friction. In addition, it unites the vertebrae and keeps them in place as well as facilitates mobility of the spine.

Types of Back Pain

The different types of back pain can be categorized into two:

1. Acute pain and chronic Pain

Acute pain lasts for a few days to a few weeks. The cause is usually mechanical in nature. Acute pain typically resolves on its own. On the other hand, chronic pain is a pain that lasts for more than 12 weeks. The pain continues even if the underlying cause of pain is already treated.

2. Nonspecific back pain, referred pain or radicular pain

The most common type of back pain is the nonspecific back pain. With non-specific back pain, the causes are not determined and unclear. The pain may vary from mild to severe.

Referred pain varies in intensity and tends to move around. It is characterized as achy and dull and may radiate from the back to the extremities.

Radicular pain is a deep, radiating pain caused by inflammation, compression, or irritation to a spinal nerve root. Numbness, weakness, or tingling may be observed.

Causes of Lower Back Pain

The causes of lower back pain can be complex. Common causes include a herniated disc, accidents or trauma, sports injuries, and lumbar muscle strain. Incorrect body mechanics when lifting or twisting, as well as ballistic movements, can also cause muscles and ligaments to develop tears that can lead to a lower back pain. Other causes include poor posture, lack of exercise, excessive weight, poor workstation set-up, and limited flexibility.

Lumbar Muscle Strain

Lumbar muscle strain is a very common injury that resulted from an overstretched or torn back muscle, particularly the lower back muscles. When these muscles are stretched too much, micro tears occur. The muscles become weak and the area around it will become inflamed; thus, the spinal column is not stabilized. Inflammation will then result to muscle spasms that cause severe pain and difficulty moving the back.

Lumbar muscle strain could happen at any age, but most frequently, people who are 40 years and older are affected. It is usually described as a localized dull, aching pain in the lower back. The pain is provoked by physical activity and is relieved by rest.

Herniated Disc

Herniated disc, also known as slipped disc or disc bulge is a spinal condition where the inner filling of the disc is squeezed out of its outer wall. A herniated disc could take place in any part of the spine. However, the lumbar region, particularly the fourth and fifth lumbar vertebrae are the most common areas of herniation, which bears most of the body’s weight, especially during sitting and standing. It is also the area where a lot of trunk movements occur such as bending and twisting. The second most common area is the cervical region. A herniated disc is usually in the early stage of degeneration.

Disc herniation causes pain. It belongs to the leading causes of low back pain as well as leg pain. This condition is common in people in their 30s and 40s. Men are more affected than women. People who are involved in strenuous physical activities are also at great risk.