Low back pain is one of the primary reasons that people seek medical attention and undergo spinal surgery, and it accounts for staggering healthcare costs and many lost work hours each year. Understanding the different roots of back pain is crucial to identifying the source and providing effective treatments. Following are a few of the most common causes of lumbar discomfort.
Often resulting from overuse and subsequent strain or sprain, muscular injuries can be extremely uncomfortable. Fortunately, though, with adequate rest and conservative treatment, the condition usually resolves relatively quickly. When the injury occurs, it is wise to rest for the first day or two and apply ice packs for 10 minutes every hour for the first 24 hours. Over-the-counter analgesics such as acetaminophen, ibuprofen and naproxen are also helpful. Heat or ice can be used after the first day.
Degenerative Disc Disease
As people age, the spongy, gelatinous discs that fit between the vertebrae lose their shock-absorbing ability. As the discs wear out and lose their shape, low back pain may develop when the vertebrae are allowed to grate against each other. If the disc herniates, the bulging structure may cause discomfort when it compresses the surrounding nerves. During flare-ups, patients may be able to find relief from non-prescription medications, walking, and performing gentle stretches. Cases of more severe discomfort may require prescription pain pills and steroids, physical therapy or epidural injections.
People of any age can suffer a herniated disc, and direct trauma to the area is the main cause in the younger population. Sports injuries, automobile accidents, improper lifting, and falls are just a few of the reasons the condition occurs. Herniated discs may be treated conservatively in the same way that degenerative disc disease is approached, and surgical intervention may be required in more severe instances.
A common cause for lumbar discomfort in the older population, spinal stenosis is a narrowing of the spinal canal. It frequently occurs as a result of vertebral changes due to osteoporosis, degenerative disc disease and the development of bone spurs. Conservative therapies are usually sufficient to relieve pain.
Ultimately, a patient’s individual symptoms and lifestyle preferences will dictate the best treatment options for relieving low back pain. To request more information or to schedule an in-person consultation with Dr. Hyun Bae and his team of dedicated and experienced spine surgeons, call (310) 828-7757.