Lower back pain can be debilitating. Here are five conditions that could be causing your discomfort, and treatment options to provide relief.
The spinal column encases most of the body’s central nervous system, so it’s not surprising that the back is highly sensitive to pain, particularly in the lower, or lumbar, region. Overuse injuries, congenital conditions, or simply wear and tear due to aging may put the lower back at risk.
Lower back pain is generally marked by a sharp pain radiating down the leg or buttock, limited range of motion, aching muscles, discomfort when you try to bend or lift heavy objects, and difficulty standing up straight.
Several conditions can give rise to lower back pain. Common ailments include:
- Disc Herniation: Connecting the spinal vertebrae are cartilage-filled sacks, or discs. When a disc dislodges due to sudden movement or gradual degeneration, it grates against nearby nerve tissue, often causing pain in the lower back and numbness in the extremities.
- Lumbar Spinal Stenosis: Like disc herniation, lumbar spinal stenosis typically occurs in older patients. As we age, the spinal column may narrow, leading to lower back pain as well as a tingling sensation in the legs.
- Arthritis: In the lumbar spine, years of supporting the body’s weight can weaken the discs between the vertebrae. This causes pain and inflammation as the bones rub together.
- Compression Fracture: Spinal compression fractures can result from osteoporosis, an injury, or a congenital condition known as osteogenesis imperfecta. These fractures in the vertebrae often cause patients to experience extreme pain and limited mobility in the lower back.
- Sprain: Though more common in areas like the ankles and knees, your lower back can suffer a sprain when the ligaments connecting the vertebrae are overstretched or torn. A sprain may result in throbbing pain and swelling in the lumbar region.
HOW TO RELIEVE YOUR LOWER BACK PAIN
The first line of treatment for lower back pain centers on conservative, nonsurgical options. The goal is to relieve discomfort and restore mobility. Common treatment methods include:
- Physical Therapy: After a period of rest, physical therapy can increase flexibility and build up the muscles in the core and lower back. Stretches and low-impact exercises can also improve posture and stability in the spine.
- Hot and/or Cold Compresses: Depending on the injury, you may be advised to apply hot and/or cold compresses to the painful area. Icing a lower back sprain, for example, can lessen the discomfort.
- Pain Medications: Over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medications and pain relievers decrease pain and supplement a physical therapy regimen. For more severe pain, your orthopedist may inject a mixture of an anesthetic and steroid into the sacroiliac joint, administer a lumbar epidural steroid injection, or recommend a trigger point injection to relax the muscles.
- Surgery: If your lower back pain fails to respond to conservative treatments, your doctor may advise surgery. The type of surgery recommended will depend upon the exact cause of your discomfort. Surgery for a herniated disc, for example, generally entails removing a portion of the damaged disc or fusing the vertebrae.
Most patients with lower back pain achieve relief within several weeks after a period of rest and physical therapy. To learn more about the treatment option that’s right for you, contact New York Bone & Joint Specialists and make an appointment. Our orthopedic experts can diagnose the source of your lower back pain and recommend therapies designed for your condition.