Lower back pain is one of the most frequently cited reasons we miss work and visit the doctor. It’s also a leading cause of surgery, and an extremely common problem even when it’s not serious enough to warrant a doctor visit.
In fact, just about everyone will experience some form of back pain during their lives, and while most of these instances are minor issues that resolve within a few days or weeks with home care, some do require more extensive treatment. Listed below are the top five causes of lower back pain.
Probably the most common cause of pain in the lower back is soft tissue irritation, often as a result of a lack of core stability and strength.
Many of us are office workers who sit at a desk all day. Even if we don’t sit at a desk, typically we sit while commuting to and from work, taking kids to school and activities, running errands. At night we continue sitting in front of a television set or computer. This sedentary lifestyle contributes to atrophy and loss of elasticity in our muscles, especially in the back, setting us up for serious back pain.
Obesity ties in somewhat to the first cause of lower back pain. The sedentary lifestyle and lack of exercise also contribute to the obesity that runs rampant, particularly in America. The extra weight we carry puts incredible stress on the joints of the spine, causes the spine and the soft tissue supporting it to work incredibly hard, and pulls the pelvis forward, throwing the entire spinal column out of alignment.
Additionally, fat cells are an inflammatory organ. Their existence in the body exacerbates any existing inflammation, injury or pain, making it significantly worse than it would be without the influence of the fat cells.
Disc Problems or Sciatica
Bulging or prolapsed discs, narrowing of the spinal column, and bone spurs can all place pressure on the spinal cord or related nerves such as the sciatic, causing back pain. These issues can be caused by normal wear and tear, age, trauma, or injury from repetitive motion or lifting something too heavy.
As the joints of the spinal column respond to wear and tear and age, diseases such as arthritis, degenerative disc disease, spinal stenosis, Spondylolisthesis, and others begin to appear. Although these conditions commonly show up on X-rays of those over the age of 60, they don’t always cause pain.
Usually, these degenerative diseases manifest pain when bone spurs or dehydrated intervertebral discs begin to narrow or put pressure on the spinal column or nerve roots.
Poor Posture and/or Poor ergonomics
Good posture isn’t just an archaic idea that was important to your grandmother. Good posture has a lifelong impact on the mechanics and strength of the spine by keeping it functional and in alignment. These days an overwhelming number of people have bad posture, placing undue pressure on the spine, shoulders, and neck.
The problem is particularly acute among computer workers whose workstation is not ergonomically designed. The human body wasn’t designed to sit for long periods, and a workstation that doesn’t take ergonomics into account exacerbates an already unhealthy situation for the back.
As you may have noticed, many of the things that cause back pain are avoidable with a bit of change in lifestyle. Exercise, stretching, better posture, healthy weight and an ergonomic workstation can work wonders in decreasing the incidence of back pain, or decreasing the severity of back pain when it hits.