Lower back pain is a common condition that can cause significant discomfort and disability. The exact cause of low back pain is often difficult to determine, but it is typically the result of a combination of factors, including muscle strain, joint problems, and/or injury. Low back pain may be acute (short term) or chronic (lasting 3 months or more) after an injury or treatment of an underlying cause.
The spine is the main support for the body. The low back is made up of the 5 vertebrae (L1-L5) in the lumbar region of the spine. These vertebrae are stacked on each other and connected by joints called facet joints. The facet joints allow the spine to twist and bend. Between the vertebrae are discs that are cushion-like structures which act as shock absorbers between the bones.
The low back also has several large muscles that attach to the spine and help support the body’s weight. These muscles are called the erector spine muscles. The low back also has a number of ligaments that attach the vertebrae to each other and help hold the spine together. Finally, there are many small nerves in the low back that provide sensation to the area and allow the muscles to move.
Many different things can cause lower back pain including skeletal irregularities like scoliosis, mechanical issues like arthritis and soft tissue injuries like muscle and ligament strains. Joint problems like acute disc herniations or degenerative disc disease can cause pain and weakness. Spinal stenosis is a narrowing of the spinal canal that can compress spinal nerves and cause low back pain. Arthritis, wear and tear on the discs, and facet joint dysfunction can also lead to low back pain. Traumatic injuries from sports or auto-accidents can damage bone or soft tissues leading to acute onset of pain and limitations.
The most common cause of low back pain is muscle strain and spasms. This occurs when the muscles in the lower back become overly stressed and/or damaged. Overexertion injuries can occur from repetitive motions, sudden twists/turns, prolonged effort and incorrect technique leading lead to inflammation, pain, and discomfort.
The symptoms of low back pain can vary depending on the cause. However, most people with low back pain experience some combination of the following symptoms:
- pain in the lower back that may radiate into the buttocks, legs, and feet
- stiffness or decreased range of motion in the lower back
- muscle spasms or cramping in the lower back
- difficulty standing or walking for long periods
The expert team at LALL Orthopedics+ will begin by taking a complete medical history and performing a comprehensive physical examination. This will help to determine whether there are any underlying medical conditions that could be causing your low back pain. The clinicians will also ask about any previous injuries or trauma to the lower back.
Imaging tests such as x-rays, CT scans and MRIs may be ordered to further evaluate the cause of the low back pain. These tests can help to rule out other conditions and confirm a diagnosis. Often times, diagnostic injections to areas other than the back, such as the hip joint, are critical to rule in or rule out the back as an underlying pain generator. Our team is specially trained to perform these injections during same-day patient visits under ultrasound guidance, thereby giving patients an immediate diagnosis and treatment plan.
The treatment for low back pain will vary depending on the underlying cause. The best approach depends on your symptoms and condition. Most cases of low back pain can be treated with a combination of self-care measures and medical treatment.
Most back pain is acute and can resolve on its own with conservative measures such as rest, ice, heat, and activity modification to relieve pain. Over-the-counter or prescription medications may also be used to relieve pain and inflammation. In more advanced cases, therapeutic measures include physical therapy, regenerative medicine injections like Stem-Cell Therapy or Platelet-Rich Plasma (PRP) and minimally invasive surgical intervention.
Physical therapy is often recommended to help improve range of motion and strengthen the muscles in the lower back. In some cases, injections or nerve root blocks may be ordered to help control pain.
In severe cases of low back pain, surgery may be necessary to relieve the pressure on the nerves or to repair damaged discs or joints.
If you are experiencing lower back pain, contact LALL Orthopedics+ today for a comprehensive evaluation and treatment plan.
Dr. Ajay C. Lall is a former dual sport NCAA collegiate athlete (football and track & field), American board certified and triple fellowship-trained orthopedic surgeon. Dr. Lall and the team at LALL Orthopedics + specializes in diagnosing and treating lower back pain. Schedule an orthopedic consultation today.
At a Glance
Ajay C. Lall, MD, MS, FAAOS
- Board Certified – Orthopedic Surgery
- Triple Fellowship Trained
- Performs over 750 Surgeries Per Year
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