Back pain is one of the most common reasons people go to the doctor or miss work and a leading cause of disability worldwide. Most people have back pain at least once in their lifetime.
Back pain often develops without a specific cause. Your doctor can identify with a test or imaging study. Conditions commonly linked to back pain include:
- Muscle or ligament strain. Repeated heavy lifting or a sudden awkward movement may strain back muscles and spinal ligaments. If you’re in poor physical condition, constant strain on your back may cause painful muscle spasms.
- Bulging or ruptured discs. Discs act as cushions between the bones (vertebrae) in your spine. The soft material inside a disc can bulge or rupture and press on a nerve. However, you can have a bulging or ruptured disc without back pain. Disc disease is often found incidentally when you undergo spine X-rays for some other reason.
- Osteoarthritis can affect the lower back. In some cases arthritis in the spine can lead to a narrowing of the space around the spinal cord, a condition called spinal stenosis.
- Skeletal irregularities. Back pain can occur if your spine curves abnormally. Scoliosis, a condition in which your spine curves to the side, also may lead to back pain, but generally only if the scoliosis is severe.
- Your spine’s vertebrae can develop compression fractures if your bones become porous and brittle.
Lower back pain can be caused by a variety of problems.
Back pain is complex as it can be from a variety of sources. Back pain can come from spinal muscles, nerves, bones, discs or tendons in the lumbar spine.
Typical sources of low back pain include:
- The large nerve roots in the low back that go to the legs may be irritated
- The smaller nerves that supply the low back may be irritated
- The large paired lower back muscles (erector spinae) may be strained
- The bones, ligaments or joints may be damaged
- An intervertebral disc may be degenerating
- Vertebral body may fracture in elderly, women, and people with weak bones (osteopenia and osteoporosis).
Treatment commonly includes:
- Physical therapy
- Interventional injections such as epidural steroid injections, facet injections, Radiofrequency ablation or Stem cell treatment may provide relief in patients who are not responding to standard treatment options.
- Surgical treatments as a last resort, in cases where interventional injections are not effective.