What’s causing your lower back pain? 3 common causes
Here are three of the most common back pain diagnoses, their causes, their symptoms, and what it takes to treat them.
Three main causes of lower back pain
Back pain can be very troubling. It is often mysterious, showing up without any traumatic incident, and fluctuating unpredictably. Fortunately, most back pain is not serious and can heal without major interventions such as injections or surgery. Once you know the 3 biggest causes of back pain, you can take steps to address it. Our doctors of physical therapy have helped hundreds of patients to return to normal activities without back pain.
Back pain typically has 3 causes:
- Disc Herniation, or disc bulge. Referred to by non-medical professionals as “slipped disc”
- SI Joint Dysfunction, or problems in the pelvis
- Stenosis, or arthritis of the spine
All three of these causes are important to define and understand when trying to determine your specific problem because they can all look a little bit like each other.
In this post, we’re going to look at sciatica, as it is very common and has pretty specific symptoms. This will help you “rule it in” or “rule it out” when trying to figure out where your pain is coming from.
A disc herniation, or disc bulge, is typically caused by bending, lifting, and/or twisting, with or without weight. It can also crop up due to long term sitting or standing with bad posture. The number one sign of a disc bulge is pain radiating into the buttocks and down the leg. This symptom is termed sciatica, named for the infringement of the disc material onto the sciatic nerve, which runs down both sides of the body from the low back, through the buttock, and down the backside of the thigh and calf. Sciatic pain can be accompanied by weakness, numbness, and tingling and usually occurs down only one side of the body at a time. It often gets worse with bending forward and sitting, and better with standing up and walking.
Most of the time, sciatic symptoms improve and dissipate over a period of one to three months, but sometimes they last longer. Conservative management of a disc bulge is successful the majority of the time. This consists of physical therapy to address inflammation, spine alignment, disc compression, muscle spasm, nerve tension, weakness, and body mechanics. If, and that’s a big IF, you have a loss of bowel or bladder control or weakness so severe that your leg is “giving out”, then it would be wise to consult a physician for possible anti-inflammatory pharmaceuticals, in the form of oral medication or a steroid injection. In very rare cases, you may need a surgical consult, the most common surgical procedures being a laminectomy, discectomy, and/or fusion. Surgery is truly your last resort and should only be considered if conservative management has failed, or if the bulge is so severe that weakness progresses at a rapid rate.
If you have any of the symptoms discussed here, we would be happy to take care of you at MoveMend. Please call us at 206-641-7733 or schedule your first appointment here.
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