The true cause of low back pain is a bit controversial in nature. The determination of cause likely depends on what type of doctor you talk to.
One important point that is often not considered, and something you should ask yourself, is this: “Is my back pain really caused by what appears to be the obvious cause?”
In its most basic form, the cause of lower back pain is typically considered to be soft-tissue (muscles, ligaments, disc) and mechanical (joint related) in nature. However, though much less common, certain diseases such as infections of the spine and cancer can lead to lower back pain. Studies show that this makes up about one percent of the back pain population. Let’s take a quick look at some of the more common causes.
1. Disc issues
The discs in the back are susceptible to injuries, and there is an increase in the risk as you age. Disc issues can occur when you twist the back or lift something suddenly. If weak, the outer part of the disc can herniate (rupture) or even tear. This can lead to pain.
However, be careful when attaching ‘disc bulging,’ as seen on an MRI, as the cause of your pain. Most people with disc degeneration and bulging lead pain free and active lives as proven through numerous research and survey studies.
Unless you have a significant injury such as a motor vehicle collision or falling off a ladder, chances are a specific trauma was not the cause of your lower back condition.
It is more likely that excessive or repetitive activities have resulted in the strain or over-stretch of the ligaments and muscles in the back. This can lead to the muscle spasms, stiffness, and pain in the lower back.
3. Abnormal curves in the spine
Low back pain can be caused by abnormal spine curvatures. It places pressure on the ligaments, tendons, vertebrae, and muscles. The abnormal curvatures cause poor posture and pain in the lower back.
However, in the case of slight abnormal curvatures, keep in mind the body has the ability to adapt to these gradual changes in the spine. So, barring significant scoliosis or significant loss of a ‘normal’ spine curve, the body will typically function normally and without pain.
4. Spinal stenosis
When the discs between the vertebrae degenerate, it can lead to spinal stenosis. This makes the spinal column narrow, thereby putting pressure on the spinal nerves and spinal cord. A lot of people with spinal stenosis feel the symptoms at the lower back when walking or standing.
Many forms of arthritis affect the bone, muscles, and joints. But the most common form of back arthritis is osteoarthritis. It occurs when the cartilage that cushions the end of bones break down. When the bones move, it irritates and can lead to spurs which are known as a bony outgrowth. This outgrowth of bone can cause pain when it presses the nerves.
Improper movement of the spinal joint coupled with unusual amounts of inflammation can lead to nerve irritation in and around the nerves that branch off the spinal cord. This is known as a subluxation. Subluxations may occur secondary to any of the aforementioned conditions, and if bad enough cause pain in the lower back.
Some studies show that the ‘subluxation’ may even lead to some of the other conditions such as arthritis. Research indicates that a stuck or immobile spinal joint can spark the process of arthritic changes in the joint itself.
While there is no clear-cut cause for spinal related pain, the best advice is to get more than one opinion and more than one diagnostic study performed to help get an idea of the cause. Opinions from a local chiropractor and orthopedist will likely be quite different as to the cause of your pain. This is not a bad thing as it allows you to weigh their conclusions and recommendations. The cause of your pain and best care to improve your pain will likely be revealed as you explore your options.
Common Misconceptions about Chronic Back Pain. University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics. https://uihc.org/health-topics/common-misconceptions-about-chronic-back-pain
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