According to the World Health Organization, lower back pain affects 619 million people around the world. Lower back pain is an issue that people of all ages suffer from, and it can be debilitating. Many conditions, injuries, and damage can lead to this kind of back pain.
If you’re struggling, understanding the causes of the problem can help when deciding on the right treatment. Let’s take a closer look at the causes of lower back pain.
Muscle Strain or Sprain
Perhaps the most common reasons people experience lower back pain are muscle strains and sprains. These issues can occur gradually from overuse, or they can occur suddenly after an injury.
A low back strain occurs if you stretch the muscles that hold your spinal column in place. Tiny tears can form, leading to weaker muscles that have a harder time holding the bones of your spinal column correctly. That leads to the spine being less stable, which causes lower back pain.
A sprain occurs when the ligaments, which are the bands of tissue that hold bones together, tear away from their attachments. This, too, can happen from overuse or from an injury. The most common symptoms of muscle strains or sprains are muscle spasms, stiffness, and pain.
Degenerative Disc Disease
Degenerative disc disease is a condition in which the cushioning in your spine wears away. Your spinal discs are cushions between the bones (vertebrae) in your spinal column. They help you move and act as shock absorbers.
However, as you age, these discs begin to wear away, leading the bones to start rubbing together. Injuries and diseases can also wear away the discs.
Some of the symptoms of degenerative disc disease are:
- Pain that worsens when bending, lifting, or sitting
- Numbness and tingling in your legs or arms
- Pain that radiates down to your lower back and buttocks
The symptoms can come and go, and they can last for weeks or months at a time. The pain can range from mild to severe.
Herniated discs are injuries to the spine. Between the vertebrae in your spine are cushions called discs. The discs function as buffers, letting you move around with ease. If one of these discs tears or leaks, you have a herniated disc.
It’s a condition that affects men more than women, and it’s more likely to occur in people who sit for long periods, lift heavy objects, perform repetitive twisting or bending motions, or smoke.
Discs have gel-like centers and a firm outer layer, which can crack over time. When the inner gel-like substance pushes through the crack, you have a herniated disc. That leaked material can press on spinal nerves.
Sciatica is nerve pain that occurs because of an injury or irritation to the sciatic nerve. You have two sciatic nerves, one on each side of the body, that run down your legs until they reach below your knee, where they then split into other nerves. Pain that occurs anywhere along that nerve is considered sciatica pain.
Herniated discs can cause sciatica as can arthritis, degenerative disc disease, and injuries. You are more at risk if you are obese, don’t have a strong core, or have a job that requires lots of lifting.
This is the most common type of arthritis, and it occurs when the cartilage that covers your joints wears down over time, allowing your bones to rub together. Cartilage functions like a shock absorber as well as a lubricant, letting the bones that make up your joints move smoothly. With arthritis, this movement is more difficult and painful.
One of the most commonly affected areas is the lower back. Although it’s not entirely clear what causes osteoarthritis, scientists believe it occurs as a result of aging, health conditions that affect your joints, falls, and other accidents.
Spinal stenosis is a condition in which the space around your spinal cord becomes too narrow, leading to irritation of the cord or the nerves that branch off from it. You can think of your spinal canal as a tunnel that runs through each of the vertebrae that make up your spine. Your spinal cord is contained within this tunnel.
If the space narrows, your nerves can become compressed or pinched, causing back pain. Symptoms can depend on the type of spinal stenosis you have and can include:
- Heavy feeling in your legs
- Tingling or numbness in the foot, leg, or buttocks
- Pain that gets worse when you stand or walk for a long time
- Pain in your lower back
You can have acquired spinal stenosis, meaning it develops over time, or congenital spinal stenosis, which you have from birth. Herniated discs, osteoarthritis, spinal injuries, and many other conditions can cause it.
Spondylolisthesis is a condition that causes lower back pain, and it occurs when one of the bones in your spine slips out of place and onto the bone below it. This can put pressure on a nerve, resulting in back or leg pain.
Common symptoms of spondylolisthesis include:
- Difficulty walking or standing for long periods
- Back stiffness
- Hamstring muscle spasms
- Pain when bending
- Foot tingling, weakness, or numbness
Young athletes, especially gymnasts and football players, are at risk. Some people are born with spondylolisthesis.
If you have a fracture in a bone in the lower back, this can also cause lower back pain. Fractures can occur from traumatic injuries like falls or conditions like osteoporosis.
Regenerative Medicine for Lower Back Pain
No matter what is causing your lower back pain, you can get relief from symptoms. Most people turn to pain medications and anti-inflammatories to treat back pain, but all that those drugs do is hide the symptoms. They don’t get to the underlying cause of the problem. Regenerative medicine offers something different.
Regenerative medicine, also known as stem cell therapy, stimulates the natural healing process that you need to start feeling better. Turn to your healthcare provider to see if it’s the right choice for you.