In the past three months, about one-quarter of American adults reported lower back pain of some type and intensity. It’s one of the most common reasons for missed time on the job. It’s no wonder — when your back hurts, virtually any motion can be uncomfortable, if not excruciating.
Fortunately, most lower back pain isn’t serious, and it will heal itself with time and rest. Most cases result from predictable injuries or risk factors, so when you’re aware of what causes your back pain, you can take steps to avoid it.
When you can’t afford the downtime that lower back pain sometimes requires, contact the specialists at Atlas Neurosurgery and Spine Center. As lower back pain specialists, we offer all levels of treatment, starting with the most conservative options and including surgery in those rare cases when no other therapy produces results.
The best treatment is, of course, none at all. Being proactive with your spine health helps you avoid back pain episodes. Here’s what you need to know about the most common causes of lower back pain.
The most common sources of lower back pain don’t involve the bones of your spine. Instead, soft tissue injuries — trauma to muscles and ligaments — are the culprits. These injuries can come directly from activity, such as heavy lifting or awkward movements while carrying loads. Having certain risk factors can make it more likely you’ll injure yourself.
Herniated discs are next. Healthy spinal discs cushion the joints between vertebrae, absorbing the shock of movement while providing a wide range of motion. These discs have a tough outer casing surrounding a softer inner core, a construction that’s often described as resembling a jelly doughnut, though much tougher.
The outer casing can, however, deteriorate as you get older, and straining your back can cause it to rupture, or herniate. When the inner core escapes, it can sometimes press against and irritate nerves, causing lower back pain. In most cases, the disc will heal itself over a matter of weeks.
Arthritis can cause lower back pain when joint deterioration causes bone spurs to form, reducing the amount of space through which nerves pass as they exit the spinal column. This narrowing is called spinal stenosis, and it becomes a problem when nerve tissue is compressed or irritated.
Your vertebrae become more porous when you develop osteoporosis, and if it becomes advanced enough, reduced bone density no longer bears the same loads as it once did. Affected vertebrae could collapse, also causing nerve compression and irritation.
Increasing the risk
Lower back pain can happen to anyone, but your risks increase if you have any of these additional factors working against you:
- Obesity: extra body weight increases the loads your spine bears, often exponentially
- Sedentary lifestyle: without exercise, muscles get weaker, transferring more load to the spine
- Getting older: lower back pain is more likely once you reach your 30s
- Poor lifting technique: arching and straightening the spine to pick up a heavy object may overload your spine and muscles
- Smoking: several effects of nicotine can aggravate spine health
When lower back pain strikes and you need relief, contact Atlas Neurosurgery and Spine Center at their nearest location in Phoenix or Sun City, Arizona. You can call your choice of office directly or you can request an appointment online. There’s no need to live with the hassle of back pain. Book your consultation now.