Spine Surgery

February 21, 2022

Common Causes of Lower Back Pain & How They’re Treated

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Sometimes, it’s easy to know what caused your lower back pain. If you pull a muscle after falling off a ladder, for example, you know what the problem is. But for many people, it’s not that simple. The pain may be an occasional twinge for a while, building slowly over time until it’s a chronic, debilitating problem that’s challenging to treat.

Here are some of the most common reasons people end up with lower back pain.

Injuries

Injuries—ranging from sprains and strains to bone fractures—are the most common cause of back pain. When caused by an injury, lower back pain is often acute, lasting six weeks or less. As we age, we are more prone to injury because the spine naturally deteriorates.

Tendons, muscles, and ligaments can be pulled or overworked while you’re lifting something improperly, but even something like a fit of coughing or sneezing can strain back muscles. In some cases, a fractured spine may result from an accident such as a fall or an automobile crash.

Disc Problems

The cushiony discs between the vertebrae in your spine often cause lower back pain if they are damaged or misaligned. Our spinal discs become flatter and stiffer as we age, which decreases the spine’s ability to absorb the shocks of movement and leads to pain. Bulging discs can put pressure on surrounding nerves, and torn discs can cause pain as well.

Arthritis

Another common cause of lower back pain is osteoarthritis, the natural wear and tear on the spine. This can lead to bones grinding together and impinging on nerves. Another form of arthritis called ankylosing spondylitis inflames the spinal column, causing stiffness and pain. In severe cases, the bones of the spinal column fuse and become rigid.

Other Spinal Problems

There are certain spine issues that can also cause lower back pain.

  • Spinal stenosis is the narrowing of the spine’s vertebrae, leading to pressure on the spinal cord. This pinching can impact the sciatic nerve running down the leg, causing severe pain in the lower back, hip, and leg.
  • Scoliosis, or abnormal spine curvature, can cause stiffness, pain, and difficulty moving.
  • Spondylolisthesis causes vertebrae to slip out of place, causing lower back pain and sometimes pain in the upper leg.

Treatments for Lower Back Pain

Most patients recover from lower back pain with over-the-counter pain medications, rest, and icing the area. Rest is usually recommended for at least 2-3 days, after which you can slowly resume your normal activities. The more active you are after recovering, the more quickly you will recover, and the less likely your back pain is to return. If this doesn’t work, there are several treatment options depending on the severity and duration of your discomfort.

Prescription Medications

Prescription-strength anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) or other medications may be prescribed to reduce inflammation, relieve pain, and relax tight muscles or relieve spasms.

Physical Therapy

Working with a physical therapy improves flexibility, builds strength, and helps you learn ho to properly bend, lift, and twist to avoid future injuries. Stabilizing the lumbar area and strengthening your abdominal core muscles are two ways physical therapy can help reduce lower back pain and prevent future flare-ups.

Steroid Injections

Spine surgeons or interventional pain management specialists may treat lower back pain with steroid injections into the lower back area to reduce inflammation and relieve pain. These treatments usually last for several weeks and may need to be periodically repeated in the case of chronic lower back pain. For acute pain, steroid injections give the patient time to heal properly, minimizing the need for surgery when other treatments haven’t worked.

Surgery

There are several kinds of surgery for lower back pain. These options are used only after other methods to control pain and restore mobility have failed. Some surgeries are minimally invasive with quick recovery times, while others require a hospital stay and have a longer recovery.

Some of the most common surgeries for lower back pain include:

  • Discectomy, or the removal of a herniated disc to relieve painful pressure on a nerve root.
  • Lumbar interbody fusion, which removes a damaged disc and inserts spacers with bone grafts to fuse that area of the spine.
  • Laminectomy, or the removal of some vertebral bones to relieve pressure on nerves or the spinal cord.
  • Spinal fusion, which restricts movement and stabilizes the area to relieve pain. This is most often a last resort for severe scoliosis and other congenital curvatures.

Talk to A Lower Back Pain Specialist

If you’re suffering from lower back pain that isn’t responding to ice, rest, and over-the-counter medications, talk to your doctor or contact the specialists at Arkansas Surgical Hospital. We work with patients experiencing both acute and chronic lower back pain, helping them find relief so they can return to active, pain-free lives. Call Arkansas Surgical Hospital today at (877) 918-7020 for help scheduling a consultation with one of our spine specialists.

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