Low Back Pain Overview Low Back Pain Causes and Symptoms Low Back Pain Diagnosis and Treatments

Lower Back Pain Can Be Debilitating

For many people, low back pain isn’t just an inconvenience. The pain can become so severe that it is debilitating and life-changing. More than 80% of adults will have low back pain at some point in their life, and it’s the most common injury or disability that causes people to miss work. That means it’s not only a drain on your quality of life, it can be an economic drain, as well. There was a study done in 1990 that found low back pain was the sixth-most burdensome condition in the United States when it came to mortality or poor health. By 2010, it was only behind ischemic heart disease and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.

Low back pain can be dull and constant or a sharp pain that leaves you unable to function. It might start because of trauma to your back, perhaps in a sports-related injury or car accident, but it can also develop from the natural deterioration of your spine as you get older. If you lead a sedentary lifestyle, it can create issues in your lower back, especially if you are sedentary during the week and then strenuously working out on the weekends.

In many cases, the low back pain will resolve itself in a few days or even a few weeks and won’t require a doctor’s intervention. This is known as subacute low back pain. Most back pain won’t result in long-term loss of function, either. If you experience low back pain that lasts for twelve weeks or more, then it is considered to be chronic low back pain and may require the help of a doctor. Most back pain is due to disruption in the mechanics of your spine, meaning that the muscles, discs, and nerves aren’t working together and fitting together as they are supposed to do.

The Anatomical Structure Of The Back

Low back pain often occurs in the five vertebrae (L1 to L5) that make up the lumbar, or lower, region of your back. This area supports the majority of the weight of your upper body. There are spaces between these vertebrae that are filled with round, jelly-like pads that are called intervertebral discs. These are like shock absorbers for your back. They provide cushioning for the bones in your spine, allowing you to move around. There is a junction between your vertebrae that is stabilized by the facet joint. There are also ligaments that hold the vertebrae in place and tendons that attach your back muscles to your spinal column. Finally, there are 31 pairs of nerves that start at the spinal cord and control your movement, sending signals to your brain to help you move and feel.

Spine anatomy

As you get older, your spine endures a lot of stress and strain. There are changes to the structure of your spine as well, especially in the discs, facet joints, and ligaments around your vertebrae. Any changes to these structural elements of the spine can lead to lower back pain.

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