What Causes Lower Back Pain?
Lower back pain causes can include herniated disc, bulging disc, degenerative disc disease, sacral iliac joint pain. Research has shown that roughly 80% of us will experience some form of low back pain during our lifetime. This lower back pain may be accompanied by pain down the leg which is also known as sciatica. There are many fears about low back pain, but the good news is that most cases can be resolved without relying on medications, injections, or surgery. . A proper assessment is required to help determine what the lower back pain causes are so that you can return back to the activities that you love. Some of the common causes of low back pain are listed below.
Degenerative Disc Disease
The lower back has 5 levels of vertebrae (back bones). Each of these “levels” has a disc in between the bones that provide cushion and flexibility for the spine. In people ages 40 and under, this disc material maintains a gelatin and fluid like make-up which allows for greater mobility in the spine. However, as we age this disc goes through some wear and tear (much like our skin and hair on the outside of our body). This can cause the spine to lose mobility and result in pain. The term used for this break down in disc tissue is degenerative disc disease. Degenerative disc disease is one of the lower back pain causes and may or may not be accompanied by sciatica (pain, numbness, or tingling) down the leg. Some of the common symptoms of degenerative disc disease:
a. Low back stiffness in the morning
b. Pain decreases with walking and movement
c. Pain with sitting or standing stationary for extended periods of time
Degenerative disc disease is usually seen in the population ages 40 and older. The important factor to consider with this diagnosis is that it is not as “bad” as it sounds. As stated earlier our bodies go through normal wear and tear on the outside (wrinkles, grey hair, etc), so we should expect the same natural process to occur on the inside. Luckily research supports that surgery is not necessary for degenerative disc disease and that people can return to the activities they love pain free without medications, injections or surgery.
Degenerative Disc Treatment
The good news is that a specifically targeted flexibility and strengthening program can help alleviate much of the pain and stiffness that people feel with this condition. The first step is to understand what types of positions and exercises help relieve the condition and what can actually aggravate it. It is important to remain as active as possible within pain limits. Once you have a good understanding of the proper steps that need to be taken, you can then begin to return to your favorite activities pain free.
Herniated Disc or Bulging Disc
Concerning lower back pain causes herniated disc or bulging disc (which also is commonly referred to as a slipped disc) is one of the most common diagnosis given to people with low back pain. The discs in the low back sit between each individual vertebra. These discs act as “shock absorbs” or cushions to allow for mobility in the low back. Discs are made of a gelatin and fluid like substance so when too much pressure is placed on them they can bulge (think putting pressure on one end of a balloon). When the disc bulges or herniates, it can lead to back pain with or without sciatica (pain, numbness, or tingling down the leg). It is important to remember that these disc injuries are actually quite common and can be healed without requiring injections, medications, or surgery. Some of the common symptoms include:
a. Pain in the low back (or down the leg) with bending forward.
b. Pain with prolonged sitting
c. Relief with standing and walking
d. Numbness, tingling, or pain down the leg.
Herniated discs and bulging discs can also be implicated in “reoccurring back pain”. For instance, some people have episodes where their back will “give out”. This can be a very painful experience and can lead to the inability to move pain free. Normally these episodes can last for 1-2 weeks but there always remains an underlying dull ache in the low back.
Herniated Disc Treatment and Bulging Disc Treatment
As stated before, this type of condition can be healed if treated appropriately without requiring surgery, medications, or injections. The key factor to returning back to pain free movement is understanding what positions and movements bring about the pain. There is no magic pill or exercise to completely get rid of the disc problem. Normally it will take a combination of learning correct movement patterns and performing the right exercises to abolish the pain and return back to the activities that you enjoy!
Sacroiliac Joint Pain
Sacroiliac joint pain (SIJ) is an often-overlooked lower back pain causes. It affects roughly 10%-25% of patients with complaints of low back pain. This condition typically affects females more than it does males. The Sacroiliac joint is the combination of our pelvic bone and tailbone joining together in our low back/buttock region. The pain is felt on just one side of the low back. This type of pain will occur if a person falls on one side of the body or during or after a pregnancy. The common symptoms of SI joint pain are:
a. Pain that radiates to just the knee
b. Pain with transitional movements such as sit to stand and rolling in bed
c. Decreased pain with lying down
Sacroiliac joint pain can be the culprit of low back pain in those who have sought treatment for months or even years with no relief. This condition will not show up on any MRI or Xrays. However, once it is identified correctly through a thorough physical assessment it can be easily treated.
Sacral Iliac Joint Pain Treatment
SI Joint pain can be treated with conservative care, including a strengthening, stretching, and stability program. Muscle imbalances are often seen in patients who struggle with this type of pain. It is important to identify these imbalances and correct them so that the SI joint can function at its optimal level. Once you have corrected these imbalances then you can begin to move pain free and return to the activities that you love!