What is low back pain?

Low back pain is pain and stiffness in the lower back. It is one of the most common reasons people miss work.

How does it occur?

Low back pain is usually caused when a ligament or muscle holding a vertebra in its proper position is strained. Vertebrae are bones that make up the spinal column through which the spinal cord passes. When these muscles or ligaments become weak, the spine loses its stability, resulting in pain. Because nerves reach all parts of the body from the spinal cord, back problems can lead to pain or weakness in almost any part of the body.
Low back pain can occur if your job involves lifting and carrying heavy objects, or if you spend a lot of time sitting or standing in one position or bending over. It can be caused by a fall or by unusually strenuous exercise. It can be brought on by the tension and stress that cause headaches in some people. It can even be brought on by violent sneezing or coughing. People who are overweight may have low back pain because of the added stress on their back. Back pain may occur when the muscles, joints, bones, and connective tissues of the back become inflamed as a result of an infection or an immune system problem.

Arthritic disorders as well as some congenital and degenerative conditions may cause back pain. Back pain accompanied by loss of bladder or bowel control, difficulty in moving your legs, or numbness or tingling in your arms or legs may indicate an injury to your spine and nerves, which requires immediate medical treatment.

What are the symptoms?

Symptoms include:
• pain in the back or legs
• stiffness and limited motion
Be sure to see your healthcare provider if:
• you have weakness in your leg, especially if you
cannot lift your foot, because this may be a sign of
nerve damage
• you have new bowel or bladder problems as well
as back pain, which may be a sign of severe injury
to your spinal cord
• you have pain that gets worse despite treatment

How is it diagnosed?

Your healthcare provider will review your medical history and examine you. He or she may order xrays. In certain situations a myelogram, CT scan, or MRI may be ordered.
How is it treated?
The early stages of back pain with muscle spasms should be treated with ice, medication therapy, stretching and exercise, and physical therapy. If back pain persists, injection therapy may be an option. If all conservative therapies have been tried and failed, surgery may be recommended.


Click on the links below to learn more about common lumbar conditions:


Lumbar Disc Herniation

Lumbar Compression Fractures

Lumbar Instability/Spondylolithesis

Lumbar Radiculopathy

Degenerative Disc Disease

Lumbar Traumatic Fractures


**Information provided in this section have been obtained from the Sports Medicine Patient Advisor Handbook