Back pain is one of the most common ailments, and it is not always related to significant health problems. Most of us have experienced back pain at least once, and doctors receive millions of cases in emergency rooms every year. Around two out of three people will experience back pain at least once. It is sometimes due to stress, but frequent episodes can be due to spinal problems and chronic diseases.
In this article, you will find the most critical facts you need to know about spinal pain: what causes this common ailment, how it is diagnosed, and what you can do to feel better.
What causes lower back pain?
The cause of lower back pain is often obscure and difficult to trace. Most episodes do not require any investigation and improve with short-term medical treatment. In most cases, doctors would investigate lower back pain when symptoms are recurrent or severe. It is usually due to a mechanical cause.
Mechanical lower back pain includes muscular, spinal problems, tumors, and bone fractures:
- Muscular causes: Muscle tension and muscle strain cause lower back pain. You could experience muscle tension in your lower back in response to stress, after exercising your back muscles, or in response to an abnormal spinal curvature. In many cases, muscle strain worsens a spinal condition, aggravating the pain.
- Spinal misalignments: The spine has natural curves, and the vertebrae are designed to follow them. Spinal conditions such as scoliosis and kyphosis feature an abnormal spinal curve. Keeping this curve rearranges the rest of the structures often leads to nerve compressions and similar problems. Posture problems have a similar effect and often cause temporary lower back pain, too.
- Overweight and obesity: Carrying excessive weight may also cause lower back pain. Overweight and obesity increase the burden to all of the articulations of the body, including the spine. These individuals often experience back pain when sitting or standing for an extended period.
- Fractures: Trauma and fractures are common causes of back pain, too. A direct hit and enduring vertebral fractures lead to significant pain symptoms. In some cases, patients with osteoporosis endure microscopic fractures in the spine. Such fractures build-up ultimately causing a lingering pain in the lower back.
- Herniated discs: This is another common ailment, and it is mainly seen in older adults. As we age, the discs between the vertebrae become fragile. The outer layer weakens as they degenerate, and the inside of the disc bulges to the outside. This is a herniated disc, a spinal problem that reduces the space between vertebrae. Shorter space between the vertebrae leads to compression in the nerve roots and spinal pain.
- Spinal tumors: A tumor in the spine may also cause compression of the nerve roots and spinal pain. Depending on the size of the tumor, the symptoms can be mild or very severe.
- Sciatica: Most of the conditions listed above lead to a compression of nerve roots. This is basically what happens in the case of sciatica pain. The sciatic nerve is compressed against the vertebrae or another structure and sends out equivocal pain signals to the brain. This type of pain can be located in the lower back, but it is usually found in the buttocks and may radiate to the legs.
Additionally, we also need to cover the inflammatory causes of spinal pain, which include:
- Different forms of arthritis: They are inflammatory and degenerative diseases caused by an overactive immune system that destroys the articulations. Arthritis and osteoarthritis of the spine are causes of progressive and chronic pain. These patients also experience flare-ups depending on their diet, mood, and other variables.
- Infections: An infection of the articulation may also lead to inflammatory pain. This is known as reactive arthritis, and the symptoms are similar to arthritis. In this case, antibiotics will control the infection and relieve the symptoms.