Lumbar Spine – Lower Back Disorders

Spine Care: Causes of Pain

Lumbar Spine – Lower Back Pain

Back pain is very common. It can vary from a nagging dull ache to a severe incapacitating pain. The following are the four main causes of back pain.

Mechanical Low Back Pain

This is the most common type of back problem. It accounts for 70-75% of all back problems. It is caused by strain or microscopic tears of the muscles and ligaments in the back and is usually the easiest to treat.

Facet Joint Syndrome

The vertebrae in your back are connected by small joints (facet joints). These joints are about the size of the joints in your finger. They can become strained and/or inflamed when they undergo extreme forces, as with excessive twisting or arching of the back. Since you cannot splint these joints, the pain may persist for a long time as they are constantly irritated. This accounts for 10-15% of back problems in the active person.

Herniated Disc

This is usually the most severe of low back disorders. Traditionally it is called a “slipped disc.” It occurs commonly in the young (under 50), but can also bother the older participant. The disc is a soft substance that acts as a shock absorber between the vertebrae. The inner center of the disc is like the liquid center of a golf ball which can push out at a point of weakness or injury. This can then press on the nerves causing pain from the back down to the foot. This condition accounts for 5-10% of back problems.

Degenerated Discs

If the discs lose moisture, they may occasionally shrink and cause the facet joints to settle closer together, thus irritating the adjacent nerves. Some disc degeneration commonly occurs in people over 40 even without specific injury.

The above four conditions encompass the major causes of back pain in the active person, but there are many other possibilities. The treatment of each individual back problem varies but the principles are the same.

N.B. If your symptoms change, notify your doctor immediately for re-assessment.