What is the cause of your lower back pain?
Author: Dr Maria Alejandra Pinero de Plaza, PhD*
Lower back pain is a leading cause of disability. It happens in all cultures and can affect anyone1.
Normally, lower back pain refers to discomfort or ache between the lower rib margins and the buttocks. But it can extend to one or both legs. In some occasions, this pain is associated to neurological symptoms in the lower limbs2.
What causes these symptoms?
People with physically demanding jobs, mental conditions, smokers, and obese individuals are at greatest risk of reporting lower back pain. Most people recover quickly from their lower back pain; however, recurrence is common and can become persistent and disabling2.
The known causes
The most common reason for medical consultations is discomfort and inability to work, but rare cases of lower back pain are due to more specific causes. Because of this, only a small proportion of people get to know the cause of their pain. For example, some causes that are easy to identify are vertebral fracture, malignancy, or infection2.
Other causes are3:
- Accidental injuries like a car crash
- Fracture in the lower back (vertebrae)
- Lumbar disc disease
- Poor posture
- Pressure on nerve bundles (on lowest part of the spine)
- Rheumatic conditions
- Sacroiliac joint disease (lower joints of the spine)
- Strained muscle or ligaments
When lower back pain becomes persistent, usually for more than three months, it is considered chronic and it can be difficult to treat. Therefore, many experts see it as a systemic problem that can have a strong psychological component, as explained next1.
The unknown causes
On several occasions people wake up one morning feeling pains in their lower back, and they cannot identify or recollect any reason for it3.
Those who presents lower back pain which source cannot be identified are classified as having non-specific lower back pain. This type of lower back pain can develop independently of any injury or uncommon movement or strain3.
The classification of non-specific lower back pain is used by professionals when they cannot identify a single cause of origin. This classification is, in fact, a brilliant way of expressing that they don’t understand why this pain is occurring3.
The nonspecific pains vary from moderate to severe, but without understanding the reason or cause of origin, it is hard to know what treatment to prescribe. Hence, treating non-specific lower back pain can be challenging and therefore considerably much more difficult to heal3.
Nonspecific pains may involve diverse problems in which psychological, social, and biophysical factors, as well as other diseases, are influencing the person’s health1. So, in these cases any therapy or treatment must be focused on understanding the person’s situation, needs and other specific circumstances.
New facts about lower back pain1
• Costs associated with health care and work disability ascribed to lower back pain varies significantly between countries, and are influenced by social norms, health-care approaches, and legislation
• Disability from lower back pain is highest in working age groups around the world, which is particularly concerning in low-income and middle-income countries where informal employment is frequent and possibilities for job modification are restricted
• Lower back pain is an enormously common symptom and happens in all age groups, from children to the elderly population
• Most episodes of lower back pain are short-lasting with little or no consequence, but recurrent episodes are common and lower back pain is progressively understood as a long-lasting issue with a variable course rather than episodes of unrelated occurrences
• The global burden of lower back pain is expected to increase even further in coming decades, particularly in low-income and middle-income countries
It is common to hear that someone suffers from lower back pain. However, lower back pain is the symptom of the problem, not a disease or its cause.
There are numerous and diverse known and unknown issues or diseases that can generate such symptoms1. Any treatment for specific or non-specific causes of lower back pain must be tailored to the persons needs and diagnosis.
There are a wide variety of treatment options, depending on the time lengths and intensity of your lower back pain. In Australia, the SA Wellness Centre brings multidisciplinary treatments to such symptoms.
Their natural approach of the SA Wellness Centre involves physiotherapy and chiropractic services, yoga, massage, and naturopathy. They recognise that your health and wellbeing are inter-dependent upon your mental, emotional and physical environment.
They will help you identify, relieve or prevent any lower back pain issue or connected problems. Call them or visit them now. You don’t need to make an appointment. They are ready to help you today.
- Hartvigsen, J., Hancock, M. J., Kongsted, A., Louw, Q., Ferreira, M. L., Genevay, S., … & Smeets, R. J. (2018). What low back pain is and why we need to pay attention. The Lancet, 391(10137), 2356-2367.
- Ehrlich, G. E., Khaltaev, N. G., & World Health Organization. (1999). Low back pain initiative (No. WHO/NCD/NCM/CRA/99.1). Geneva: World Health Organization.
- Hayley. (2018). Facty Health. 10 Causes of Back Pain. Assembly Technologies Inc. https://facty.com/conditions/back-pain/10-causes-of-back-pain/ (Last accessed on the 20th of March 2019).
* The author thanks and acknowledges the valuable feedback provided by Lauryn Pountney.