Low back pain is a common complaint that becomes more regular as a person ages. In fact, half of the people over the age of 60 are afflicted with lower back pain. It is listed as one of the most popular reasons for visits to primary care doctors. It is also a very expensive condition when it comes to disability payments, health care payments, and missed days of work. It does appear, however, that the amount of injuries to the back is decreasing, possibly due to better education and more preventative measures being taken.
The spinal column is made up of bones called vertebrae that are covered with a thin layer of cartilage and separated and cushioned by shock-absorbing disks made of jelly-like material and cartilage. These disks are held in place by ligament and muscles such as the following:
- A number of short paraspinal muscles which run between the vertebrae
- Two iliopsoas muscles which run along both sides of the spine
- Two erector spinal muscles which run between the vertebrae
These muscles have the responsibility of stabilizing the spine. The abdominal muscles help as well. They run from the bottom of the rib cage and the pelvis and support the abdominal contents.
The spinal cord is located inside the spinal column. Along the length of the spinal cord, spinal nerves emerge through spaces in the vertebrae and connect to nerves in the body. The spinal nerve root is part of the spinal nerve closest to the spinal cord. Because of this, spinal nerve roots can be squeezed or compressed when an injury has occurred, and this leads to lower back pain.
The lumbar spine of the lower back connects to the chest, pelvis and legs. The lumbar spine makes it possible to turn, bend, and twist. It provides a strong basis for standing, lifting, and walking. Therefore, it becomes involved in almost every activity you do during the day. When you are in pain, your activities and quality of life become limited.
Types of Lower Back Pain
Referred pain: Pain that is felt in a different location than the actual cause of the pain is called referred pain. One example of this is when people have a heart attack, they actually feel pain in their left arm. When we are talking about referred lower back pain, it is often deep and aching. It may be hard to pinpoint the exact location. It is not generally worsened by movement, unlike pain from a sore muscle.
Local pain: This happens in a particular spot in the lower back and is the most common type of back pain. It usually occurs due to a muscle strain, sprain, or another injury. The pain can be intermittent and sharp or constant and aching. If it was caused by an injury, you might feel sudden pain. It can be relieved or aggravated by changes in position and the lower back may feel sore to the touch. Muscle spasms are common.
Radiating pain: This type of pain is a dull, aching pain traveling from the lower back down the leg and may be accompanied by sharp, intense pain. Usually, only one side is affected on the side or back of the leg, not the entire leg, although the pain may travel all the way to the foot or only as far as the knee. If you have this kind of pain, you might have compression of a nerve root due to a herniated disk, osteoarthritis, or spinal stenosis. Things that make it worse are coughing, straining, bending over, or sneezing. Muscle weakness may occur, along with a pins-and-needles sensation, loss of feeling, and even loss of bowel and bladder control.
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Common Causes of Lower Back Pain
The most known cause of low back pain is due to muscle strains or sprains. This may be due to exercising, lifting, or moving in an unexpected or awkward way, such as falling or getting in a car accident. Sports can cause muscle sprains — pushing against an opposing lineman in football, turning to dribble suddenly after a rebound in basketball, swinging a bat in baseball, swinging a club in golf, or lifting a heavy weight from the ground.
Other common causes may include the following:
- Lumbar spinal stenosis
- A ruptured or herniated disk
- Compression fractures
Rare causes can be:
- Spinal tumors
- Spinal infections
- Digestive disorders — perforated peptic ulcers, diverticulitis, pancreatitis
- Urinary tract disorders — kidney infections, kidney stones, and prostate infections
- An aneurysm or bulge in the large artery of the abdomen
- Disorders of the pelvis — ectopic pregnancy, pelvic inflammatory disease, and cancer of the ovaries or other reproductive organs
- Inflammatory arthritis
- Ankylosing spondylitis
Finding Relief for Lower Back Pain
The vertebrae of the spine are very much like a set of dominoes placed on their side close together. If you tip one over, the rest are affected. In the spine, if a problem begins in one area, it does not take long to affect the other areas. Here at our Morgantown, West Virginia location, we focus on the top bones of the neck, the C1 and C2 vertebrae. When these bones are out of alignment, the rest of the spine shifts and twists to compensate, causing unequal tension and muscle spasms in the lower back.
In order to correct the misalignments in the upper cervical part of the spine, we use a gentle method that encourages the bones to realign themselves more naturally than popping and cracking them. Once these bones move back into place, the natural healing properties of the body take over and correct the problems that are causing the lower back pain. Many report having relief after just a few adjustments.
To schedule a complimentary consultation with Dr. Lucas Watterson or Dr. Amy Watterson call our Morgantown office at 304-292-7740 You can also click the button below.
if you are outside of the local area you can find an Upper Cervical Doctor near you at www.uppercervicalawareness.com.