Lower back pain affects more than 50 percent of people over the age of 60. It is very common and is the number one reason for visits to healthcare providers. It also affects one’s finances as it takes its toll in terms of payments to doctors, disability payments, and days missed from work. The good news is that a trend is developing toward a decrease in back pain. This gives hope that people are becoming more aware of what causes back pain and are working to prevent it from occurring.
Taking a Deeper Look at the Structure of the Back
The spine consists of vertebrae that are covered in a thin layer of cartilage. In between each vertebra, there is a shock-absorbing disc made from a jelly-like material and cartilage. This is held in position by muscles and ligaments including the following:
- A large number of paraspinal muscles, which run between each vertebra
- Two iliopsoas muscles, which run along each side of the spine
- Two erector spine muscles, which run behind the spine for the entire length of it
Not only do these muscles help to keep the spine stabilized, the abdominal muscles – running from the bottom of the rib cage to the pelvis – also aid in this area by being a support to the contents of the abdomen.
The spine envelops the spinal cord that has spinal nerves coming out through the spaces between the vertebrae and connecting with nerves throughout the body. The spinal nerve root is the part of the spinal nerve located nearest the spinal cord. Spinal nerve roots are susceptible to being compressed due to a spinal injury resulting in lower back pain, including sciatica.
The lower or lumbar spine provides mobility for turning, bending, and twisting, as it connects the chest to the pelvic area and legs. This means that the lower back is constantly involved in all kinds of daily activities. When pain occurs here, quality of life can be reduced and activities may have to be limited.
What Are Some Reasons for Lower Back Pain?
Most commonly, lower back pain is caused by muscle strains and ligament sprains due to:
- Moving in an unexpected way – a car accident or falling
- Pushing against an opposing lineman in football
- Suddenly turning to dribble after a rebound in basketball
- Swinging a golf club
- Swinging a bat in baseball
- Having poor posture
- Being overweight
- Being tired
Injuries occur most often when a person is in poor physical condition and the muscles that support the back are weak.
In addition, there are some other common causes of back pain:
- Fibromyalgia: Known for widespread pain throughout the body, this can include lower back pain.
- A herniated or ruptured disc: A disc has a tough covering and a soft, jelly-like interior. If it becomes suddenly squeezed by the vertebrae above it or below it – as when lifting a heavy object – the covering may tear or rupture, leading to pain. The inside of the disc may squeeze through the tear and herniate. This bulge compresses, irritates, and can damage the spinal nerve root located next to it and may also be a reason for developing sciatica.
- Spondylolisthesis: A partial displacement of the vertebra in the lower back, this happens in people who were born with a birth defect – spondylolisthesis – that causes the vertebrae to weaken. It usually affects a young person when a minor injury has caused part of the vertebra to fracture. This vertebra then slips too far forward over the one located below it, causing pain.
- Lumbar spinal stenosis: This happens when the spinal canal – the part of the back that contains the spinal cord – begins to narrow in the lower back. It commonly causes pain for older people and may also lead to sciatica.
- Compression fractures: These fractures often occur due to a decrease in bone density because of osteoporosis (see below). This develops as people age. Vertebrae tend to be more susceptible than other bones to osteoporosis. Compression fractures – sometimes causing sudden, severe back pain – may be accompanied by compression of spinal nerve roots. However, most fractures occur in the upper and middle back.
- Osteoarthritis: The cartilage that protects the vertebrae begins to deteriorate, possibly due to wear and tear over time. If one particular joint is used more often or stressed more than the others, osteoarthritis is likely to develop. The discs between the vertebrae deteriorate and this causes narrowing of the spaces between them, possibly leading to the compression of spinal nerve roots. Bone spurs may develop on the vertebrae and also lead to compression of these nerves.
Is There Anything to Be Done for Lower Back Pain?
One area that is vital to look into if you are suffering from lower back pain is that of upper cervical chiropractic care. We focus our attention on making sure the back is in the best shape possible by correcting any misalignment that may occur in the top bones of the neck. How does this relate to lower back pain? Well, when the neck bones are out of proper alignment, the entire spine must shift and compensate for the weight of the heavy head being off balance. While these changes occur gradually, the results can be long-lasting, leading to a number of the above-mentioned conditions. Therefore, it is vital to seek our care as soon as you suspect you have an injury. Even if you don’t think the injury is serious, or you are not really sure, come see us for an evaluation. We only give adjustments when necessary, and the sooner the problem is addressed, the more likely you are to be back on your way with no risk of back pain in your future.
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