Low Back and Spinal Pain
Most low back pain is triggered by some combination of overuse, muscle strain, and injury to the muscles, ligaments, and discs that support the spine. Many experts believe that over time muscle strain can lead to an overall imbalance in the spinal structure. This leads to a constant tension on the muscles, ligaments, bones, and discs, making the back more prone to injury or re-injury.
The causes of pain in the low back, or lumbosacral region, tend to add on to one another. For example, after straining muscles, you are likely to walk or move in different ways to avoid pain or to use muscles that aren't sore. That can cause you to strain other muscles that don't usually move that way.
The most common causes of low back pain are:
- Injury or overuse of muscles, ligaments, facet joints, and the sacroiliac joints.
- Pressure on nerve roots in the spinal canal.
- Herniated discs, often brought on by repeated vibration or motion (as during machine use or sport activity, or when lifting improperly), or by a sudden heavy strain or increased pressure to the lower back.
- Osteoarthritis (joint degeneration), which typically develops with age. When osteoarthritis affects the small facet joints in the spine, it can lead to back pain. Osteoarthritis in other joints, such as the hips, can cause you to limp or to change the way you walk. This can also lead to back pain.
- Spondylolysis and spondylolisthesis, vertebra defects that can allow a vertebra to slide over another when aggravated by certain activities.
- Spinal stenosis, or narrowing of the spinal canal, which typically develops with age.
- Fractures of the vertebrae caused by significant force, such as from an auto or bicycle accident, a direct blow to the spine, or compressing the spine by falling onto the buttocks or head.
- Spinal deformities, including curvature problems such as severe scoliosis or kyphosis.
- Compression fractures. Compression fractures are more common among postmenopausal women with osteoporosis, or in men or women after long-term corticosteroid use. In a person with osteoporosis, even a small amount of force put on the spine, as from a sneeze, may cause a compression fracture.
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