Low back pain, also called lumbago, is very common and can be caused by a variety of problems. The lower portion of the back has the fewest number of muscles, placing much of the stability onto the spinal cord and vertebrae. This is why the lower back is the easiest part of the body to injure.
Causes of Low Back Pain
Low back pain can be caused by injury to a muscle (strain) or ligament (sprain). There is a wide variety of causes including improper lifting, poor posture, a lack of regular exercise, fracture, ruptured disk, or arthritis. Large nerve roots in the lower back which travel into the legs mayTypical sources of low back pain include: large nerve roots in the low back that go to the legs may become irritated. Smaller nerves that run to the low back may become irritated. The erector spinae muscles may be strained. Bones, ligaments, or joints may be damaged. An intervertebral disc may be degenerating.
Pain can be achy and dull or sharp and severe, and is usually felt in the low back, but can radiate up the back as far as between the shoulder blade region. Aching, tingling and numbness can be felt in the legs if a nerve is being pinched in the lumbar vertebrae. Difficulty moving can be severe enough to prevent walking or standing. Sometimes muscle spasms can be mild or severe. Local soreness to the touch is common.
COMMON causes / issues related to low back pain
Back Muscle Strain – is one of the most common causes of acute lower back pain. Lifting a heavy object, twisting, or a sudden movement can cause muscles or ligaments to stretch or develop microscopic tears. The pain can be achy or dull, or become a muscle spasm that is severe. Sometimes tenderness to the touch can occur. Difficulty moving that can be severe enough to prevent walking or even standing, may occur. Pain can also be felt around the groin, buttock or upper thigh, but rarely travels below the knee.
Sciatica – this condition is caused when a nerve root in the lower spine is compressed, causing pain and numbness to travel along the large sciatic nerve that serves the buttocks, legs, and feet. This pain typically is ongoing (as opposed to flaring up for a few days and then subsiding). Pain may be worse in the leg and foot more than in the lower back. Pain is typically felt on one side of the buttock or leg only, and is usually worse after long periods of standing still or sitting, and relieved when walking. The pain tends to be more severe, with tingling and burning, rather than dull. Occasionally may be accompanied by weakness, numbness, or difficulty moving the leg or the foot.
Degenerative Disc Disease – is a common dysfunction that can affect patients as young as 20 years old. When the lumbar discs between the vertebrae begin to break down, the damaged disc can cause both inflammation and slight instability in the lower back, bringing about pain, muscle spasms, and sometimes sciatica. This can cause a deep ache in the lower back that worsens when standing or walking, and feels better when sitting, especially in a reclining position. Pain may worsen when bending backward or may radiate into the buttocks and back of the thighs. A tired feeling in the legs, and possible leg numbness or tingling especially after walking, is common. Tight hamstrings, making it difficult to touch the toes, can occur.
Lumbar Herniated Disc – this condition occurs when a disc degenerates and breaks down, causing the inner core to leak out through the outer portion of the disc. The weak spot in the outer core of the intervertebral disc is directly under the spinal nerve root, so a herniation in this area puts direct pressure on the nerve. The vast majority of disc herniations will occur toward the bottom of the spine at L4-L5 or L5-S1 levels. Leg pain may occur, such as the sciatic nerve being pinched, which can be more painful than in the low back. There may be numbness, weakness and/or tingling in the leg, as well as pain in the buttock or low back. Nerve impingement can cause ankle weakness or weakness in extending the big toe, or even cause foot drop. Numbness and pain can be felt on the top, side or sole of the foot.
Lumbar Spinal Stenosis – this occurs when the spinal nerve roots in the lower back become compressed, producing symptoms of sciatica. Lumbar spinal stenosis most often occurs at the L3-L4 and L4-L5 levels, but can occur at any level in the spine. Stenosis often mimics symptoms of vascular insufficiency, which can cause leg pain with walking. Pain usually occurs in the low back and legs, thighs and buttocks, that worsens when standing or exercising. Stiffness, cramping, leg numbness or tingling, or muscle weakness can occur.
At Home Rehab Tips
Initial pain and acute injury is best treated by ice to decrease inflammation associated with joint and muscle pain.
Massage therapy is very beneficial and highly recommended when experiencing low back pain and restrictions. This increases blood flow to the injured tissue, carrying oxygen and other enzymes that bring healing.
Learning correct body posture is important for daily living and activity. Learning this before beginning a strengthening routine is highly recommended. When able, begin a strengthening program with a trained therapist or personal trainer who can teach proper technique to strengthen the muscles in the lower lumbar region as well as the muscles of the core. This will take pressure off of the vertebral discs and spinal cord.
We are here to help manage and ultimately alleviate your low back pain. To schedule an initial visit, contact us at Knoxville Spine and Sports.