According to a 2010 report from the Global Burden of Disease, lower back pain is the single leading cause of disability worldwide. In fact, an estimated 70% of adults will experience back pain in their lives, with a global economic burden of $50 billion annually in direct medical costs. If you are experiencing lower back pain, these statistics don’t mean much. You don’t need numbers. What you need is answers: what causes lower back pain and what are the best treatments? Here’s how we can help at Alliance Pain Solutions.
What can I do about lower back pain?
When lower back pain strikes, it can be debilitating. Simple tasks like tying your shoes and picking up your kids become an exercise in agony. We know that it can seem hopeless, especially if your lower back pain has been with you for a while.
The first step to relief is understanding the possible causes of the pain in your lower back.
What causes lower back pain?
Your lower back consists of five lumbar vertebrae (L1 to L5) as well as the sacrum, the stable, triangular bone at the very base of your spine. The sacral hinge connects the sacrum to the first place the spine has mobility (the lower back).
Between each vertebra, intervertebral discs filled with fluid cushion the movement of the vertebrae against each other. All of these bones are stabilized with ligaments that attach the bones to each other and tendons that connect bones to muscle. Originating in the spinal cord, 31 pairs of nerves send pain signals to the brain and control movement in the body.
Lower back pain causes can be connected to injury or disfunction in any of the structures of the lower back. Here are the eight most common causes of lower back pain.
The intervertebral discs provide cushion and support between each of your vertebrae.
As we age, these discs get weaker and may begin to deteriorate, allowing the vertebrae to rub painfully together.
Narrowing of the spinal column due to age or injury results in spinal stenosis, a painful condition of the lower back that compresses nerves in the spinal column.
Muscle strain or sprain
The majority of lower back pain is acute (meaning short-lived) and caused by muscle strain or sprain.
Lifting heavy loads improperly or twisting suddenly can overstretch your ligaments, tendons, and muscles, causing pain.
Some people refer to sciatica as a cause of lower back pain, but it is less a condition that causes pain than a characteristic of your lower back pain itself.
Sciatic pain involves pain at any part of the sciatic nerve, the longest and widest nerve of the body. It originates in the lumbar spine and travels across the buttocks, down the outside of your hip, and into the foot.
Compression of this nerve can result in tingling, numbness, and excruciating pain.
Traumatic injury such as one that occurs in a car accident or during sports can also cause tremendous pain in your back.
Compression on the nerves in the spine due to this type of injury can result in many different types of lower back pain, with varying levels of severity.
Irregularities in your anatomy
Conditions such as scoliosis (sideways curvature of the spine) and lordosis (swayback) can cause pain in the back over time.
This condition occurs when a vertebra of the lumbar spine slips out of place, compressing the nerves exiting the spinal column.
This form of arthritis fuses spinal joints together, causing immobility of the spine.
The thinning bones of osteoporosis don’t in themselves cause lower back pain, but it does mean they are more susceptible to fracture (which can lead to pain).
Other lower back pain causes include:
- Kidney stones
- Inflammatory joint disease
- Cauda equina syndrome
These conditions are much more rare but do still occur.
Lower back pain risk factors
Lower back pain risk factors include:
- Obesity: Gaining weight quickly places a tremendous amount of stress on the back, as does chronic obesity
- Level of fitness: Weekend warriors are more likely to suffer from injuries, as are those with low levels of fitness (specifically those who lack strength in the abdominal muscles that support the back)
- Genetics: Ankylosing spondylitis has a genetic component (as does osteoporosis)
- Job-related hazards: Repeated heavy lifting or poor ergonomics in your work area over time can cause injury
- Mental health conditions: While anxiety and depression do not cause lower back pain, they can exacerbate its pain, with one condition making the other worse
- Heavy backpacks: Especially for children, overloaded backpacks are a big risk for injury and lower back pain
How will Alliance Pain Solutions help with my lower back pain?
With a proper diagnosis and adequate treatment, Alliance Pain Solutions can help treat your lower back pain.
Diagnosing your lower back pain
The first step of any pain treatment plan is an accurate diagnosis of the cause of your pain.
Without addressing any underlying conditions, your lower back pain might return. Using a physical examination, a complete patient history, and other diagnostic tools such as X-rays and MRI, we will work with you to pinpoint an exact diagnosis for your pain.
Our lower back pain treatment approach
We utilize the most conservative treatment approach we can to achieve the best outcome possible for your pain. Depending on your diagnosis, we may start with something as simple as a physical therapy and an exercise plan, followed by lifestyle changes and chiropractic care.
Our more interventional options for lower back pain include:
- Medial branch blocks
- Radiofrequency ablation (RFA)
- Epidural steroid injections
- Facet joint injections
We believe in personalizing treatment to match each patient and their diagnosis. While not all options will fit your diagnosis and lifestyle, we will work with you to find one that does.
At Alliance Pain Solutions, we pride ourselves on being a team of compassionate West Phoenix pain doctors who offer conservative care following proven protocols to achieve positive outcomes for our patients. We welcome patients from all over the Valley.
Get in touch today for expert help with managing your pain.