Let us go into detail about the most common causes of persistent lower back pain.
Degenerative and Herniated Discs
Degenerative disc disease (DDD) affects the intervertebral discs. With age, the discs become thinner, lose their rubbery consistency, and become tough. Age-associated spinal changes also result in arthritis and disc herniation (slipping).
This leads to pressure on the spinal cord and nerves resulting in pain. Increased friction from thinned discs causes abnormal bone growth. Osteophytes, as these bones are called, can worsen the situation by pinching spinal nerves.
This condition affects just the lower vertebrae. It occurs when a vertebra slips forward beneath another one. Though treatable, it is a cause of persistent lower back pain. Other symptoms of nerve compression like stiffness in back and legs, thigh pain, and numbness of legs, among others might be present.
It can be hereditary. Factors that increase the risk of its development are rapid puberty growth, birth defects, and strenuous sporting activities.
Scoliosis is a condition where the vertebral column curves to one side. It can occur in any region but is most common in the lower back and chest. It usually presents during childhood and spontaneous resolution with growth is common.
However, depending on the severity of the curvature, treatment might be necessary. Management consists of physiotherapy and wearing a brace. Some patients may need surgical intervention.
Persistent low back pain is a common complication. If it affects the chest, there might be respiratory problems and reduced capacity for exercise.
This is the narrowing of space within the spinal column. It results in increased pressure on the spinal cord and nerve fibers that exit the spine. It can occur anywhere on the spine but most often occurs in the lumbar region. Some people may be asymptomatic. But, others may experience persistent low back pain which may be associated with tingling, numbness, and the weakening of muscles.
Muscle or ligament strain
Muscle spasms are a common symptom, and it may be due to poor posture and heavy lifting.
Aside from these direct causes of persistent low back pain, serious medical conditions like may be the culprit. Diabetes, kidney problems, and cancer that has spread to the spine can be responsible but this is not common. In about 60% of cases, even with advanced medical equipment like MRI and CT scans, the cause may not be confirmed.
When to See a Doctor About Persistent Low Back Pain
Usually, low back pain resolves on its own within a few weeks. If yours does not resolve or even worsens, you should see a doctor.
- If the pain is severe enough to interfere with daily activities and does not subside with rest
- Spreads down either or both legs
- There is associated abnormal sensation in or weakness of lower limbs
To exclude rare instances where the pain is from serious medical conditions, you should see a doctor when:
- It is associated with a fever
- Unexplained weight loss
- Consequence of trauma
- Results in bladder or bowel issues
Other indications for a medical consultation includes:
- If you are experiencing your first low back pain after 50
- If you have been treated for cancer in the past
Persistent low back pain is a common condition that can be a great source of discomfort for sufferers. Causes can be from the spine itself or surrounding muscles. Rarely, it can be due to serious medical problems like cancer. In many cases, the underlying cause might not be identified. If pain is severe or has associated symptoms, seeking medical care is advisable.
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