Causes of Lower Back Pain
While there are a variety of causes for lower back pain, the majority of them result from the natural degeneration of parts of the spine. In some cases, causes are from overuse or acute injury such as lifting, bending or twisting the wrong way.
Lower back pain may be caused by:
Sprains and Strains
A sprain is a tearing or stretching of the ligaments, the tissue which connects the two bones together within the joints. A strain is a stretching or tearing in the muscles or tendons. Tendons are the strands of tissue that connect muscles to the bones.
One of the most common causes of lower back pain, over-activity can result in injured or stretched muscles or ligaments. The stiffness and pain caused by over-activity generally resolves itself within a few days.
A disc tear refers to a small tear in the tough outer exterior of a spinal disc, the cushions between the vertebrae that give the spine flexibility and stability.
Also known as slipped disc, disc herniation occurs when the soft-jelly-like center of the spinal disc leaks through a crack in the tough exterior, putting pressure on the spinal nerves.
Disc herniation is commonly caused by lifting, bending, twisting or pulling movements.
Disc degeneration is part of aging and causes the spinal discs to shrink. In some cases, the space between the vertebrae may collapse, resulting in spinal stenosis.
Degenerative spondylolisthesis is a condition in which the natural aging of the spine makes it difficult for the ligaments and joints to keep the vertebrae in the proper position. As a result, the vertebrae slide forward on top of one another, pressing on the spinal nerves.
Spinal stenosis is a condition where the space around the spinal cord becomes narrow, putting pressure on the spinal cord and nerves. This occurs when the spinal discs collapse and the spine attempts to stabilize itself by producing bony protrusions known as bone spurs. The growth of these spurs causes the spinal canal to narrow.
Scoliosis is a spinal deformity resulting in a curvature of the spine. The inflammation and stenosis (link to spinal stenosis) from this condition may cause pain in the lower back and legs.
How Is Lower Back Pain Diagnosed?
In order to properly diagnose the cause of your lower back pain, Dr. LaRocca will first take an extensive medical history and history of symptoms and then perform a physical examination. During the exam, he will press on certain spots on the back and may ask you stand in different positions to determine the source of your pain.
Testing may also be recommended to determine a diagnosis including:
- Bone density test
- Bone scan
- Computerized axial tomography (CAT) scan
- Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)
Treatment for Lower Back Pain
At New Jersey Back & Back Institute (NJNBI), spinal surgeon Dr. LaRocaa and his team of experienced professionals offer an array of both treatment and non-treatment options as part of our comprehensive care plan. Treatment for lower back pain may include:
- Aspirin or acetaminophen
- Other over the counter medications such as anti-inflammatories like naproxen and ibuprofen to reduce swelling
- Steroids that are injected or taken orally
Combined with certain medication, physical medicine may aid in relieving lower back pain including:
- Back braces
- Chiropractic manipulation
- Exercise regimens or programs
- Physical therapy
- Spinal disc replacement
- Spinal fusion