The National Institute of Neurological Disorders reports that around 80% of adults have lower back pain at one point in their life.
Lower back pain is also the leading cause of work-related disability. Most people experiencing lower back pain spend their days sitting.
That could explain why there has been a significant increase in lower back pain cases.
These stats are important whether or not you are currently experiencing back pain. It is crucial to understand the common causes of lower back pain and how to fix it.
In the rest of this article, we will explain some of the common causes:
1. Herniated disk
Disks are found between the vertebrae in your spine. They reduce friction between the vertebrae (cushion). A herniated disc refers to the condition where the disk comes out of its normal position.
When this happens, the disc pushes against the nerve roots along the spinal cord, which causes pain.
This kind of disc injury will happen abruptly (not gradually), usually after lifting something heavy. The risks of herniated disks increase with age.
Medical interventions include pain medication, epidural injections, and physical therapy. If these methods do not work, your doctor is likely to suggest surgery.
However, according to this study, medical drugs are hardly effective in the treatment of a herniated disk.
2. Strains and sprains
Strains and sprains in your lower back will cause back pain. A strain results from common gym mistakes, overexercising, overstretching or tearing of a muscle or tendon. A sprain is the tearing of a ligament.
Back strains and sprains result from accidents and injuries, overuse of the back, heavy lifting, and awkward twisting.
If you strain or sprain your back, apply ice on the affected area, keep the injured area elevated, and rest. However, if the pain is too much, rush to the ER.
Sciatica is the compression of the sciatic nerve, which is located in the lower back. The condition causes sharp back pain that travels through the hips down to the legs.
Treatment depends on the severity of sciatica:
For example, acute sciatica responds to OTC painkillers, cold compression packs, and light exercises such as walking and stretching.
Chronic sciatica, on the other hand, requires physical therapy, cognitive behavioral therapy, and prescription pain killers.
Surgical interventions such as lumbar laminectomy and discectomy are only necessary if sciatica does not respond to drugs and therapy.
Scoliosis is a condition resulting from the abnormal curvature of the spine. Other related conditions include lordosis and kyphosis.
The sideways curve of the spine (scoliosis) results in uneven hips and shoulders.
The condition happens in children between the ages of 11 and 12 (the period before the growth spurt of puberty). Still, even adults can develop scoliosis.
People with scoliosis often experience lower back pain, depending on the position and severity of the curve.
Also, you are more likely to experience back pain if you had scoliosis as a child. The curve might correct itself with age. However, if the curve is severe, bracing is necessary. Most scoliosis patients do not need surgery.
5. Degenerative disc disease
This condition refers to the wearing down of the discs between the vertebrae in the spine. Remember, these discs cushion the vertebrae.
So, when they wear out (degenerate), the bones (vertebrae) start rubbing against each other, which can cause pain.
Twisting and bending worsen the pain. However, moving eases the pain temporarily.
Interventions for degenerative disc disease include:
- Pain medication (both prescription and over-the-counter)
- Occupational and physical therapy
- Stop gaining weight and maintain your ideal weight
- Surgery (in severe cases)