Causes and Treatment Options
Backaches are the most common reason for doctor visits, after cold and flu symptoms. Fifty percent of all patients who suffer from an episode of low back pain will have another occurrence within one year.
The lower back, is a remarkably well-engineered structure of interconnecting bones, joints, nerves, ligaments, and muscles all working together to provide support, strength, and flexibility. However, it is also susceptible to injury and pain.
Low back pain in most cases is self-limiting and usually resolves in a few days. More serious cases of back pain are treated with anti-inflammatory medication, physical therapy (physiotherapy or osteopathy) and muscle relaxants. Surgery, a common treatment a generation ago, is now considered necessary for only a very small percentage of back pain patients.
“I have used Woodside Clinic on multiple occasions due to a back injury and have been very impressed with the staff and treatment received. I would highly recommend the clinic’s services to anyone seeking relief from pain!” Mrs Jill
Low Back Pain Conditions
Some common low back pain conditions are:
Herniated Disc (often referred to as a Slipped Disc)
A herniated disc is a frequent cause of mild or moderate low back or leg pain. Soft flexible discs separate the bones in the spine. The discs, which have a rigid outside rim and a soft, gel-like centre, act as shock absorbers and protect the spinal cord. Activity, stress, or a mechanical problem in the spine can cause a disc to bulge and become misshapen. The damaged or bulging disc may pinch or irritate a nerve root, causing pain.
The sciatic nerve, composed of several lumbar nerve roots, is one of the nerves most likely to become irritated, usually by a herniated disc. Each of the major branches of sciatic nerve travels through the pelvis and deep in the buttocks, then down the hip and along the back of the thigh to the foot. The pain of sciatica ranges from a mild tingling to a sharp ache severe enough to cause immobility.
Lumbar spinal stenosis
Degeneration of the spine also can result in lumbar spinal stenosis (LSS). This disease involves a narrowing of the canal that houses the spinal cord and nerve roots. A narrowed spinal canal may compress nerve roots in the lower back, resulting in pain and weakness in the legs and a dull pain in the lower back. Patients often find relief by sitting or standing in a hunched over position, as if leaning on a shopping cart. Symptoms of LSS usually do not occur until after the age of 50.
Disc degeneration (osteoarthritis in the spine)
Another common disorder of the lower spine is disc degeneration, or osteoarthritis in the spine. As the body ages, the discs in the spine dehydrate or dry out, and lose their ability to act as shock absorbers. The bones and ligaments that make up the spine also become less flexible and thicken. Degeneration in the discs is normal and is not in itself a problem. But pain occurs when these discs or bone spurs begin to pinch and put pressure on the nearby nerve roots or spinal cord.
Degeneration in the spine also can lead to Spondylolisthesis, a condition characterised by the slippage of a vertebra in the spine. One vertebra slips forward over another, stretching or pinching nerves and causing pain.
Causes of Back Pain
The causes of more than 80 percent of back pain cases are unknown. Some people have damaged or bulging discs but feel fine. Researchers do know that back pain often begins with an injury, after lifting a heavy object or moving suddenly. People who do not exercise regularly face an increased risk for back pain, as do obese people. Blood clots, tumours and abscesses can cause sciatica. Arthritic back pain can be the result of trauma or infection. Atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries) can cause back pain when arteries in the legs are clogged.