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Pain in the lower back or lumbar region of the spine (also known as lumbago) is very common. In fact, it affects around 80% of people sooner or later in their lives and is believed to be the cause of more sickness absence from work than any other condition. Back pain can arise from a number of reasons, from spinal alignment issues, disc damage through to muscular stresses. An allied health professional can help diagnose the cause.
Lower Back Pain Causes – Strains and Sprains
One of the most common lower back pain causes is a strain or sprain in the muscles of the back.
This type of back pain is often called non-specific lower back pain and it usually goes away without requiring specific treatment except for pain medication which may be required.
This type of pain will normally resolve within 4 weeks, and often in much less time than that.
If the strain has been caused by a sudden movement, lifting, or other obvious event, it often causes severe and immediate pain that may result in the person having very limited movement for a time.
Rest is essential and anti inflammatory medication may be prescribed to handle the pain.
Lower Back Pain Causes – Herniated Disc
In some cases the cause may not be muscle strain but a herniated disc (also known as a ruptured, bulging or slipped disc).
This occurs when one of the discs that act as cushions between the vertebrae (the bones of the spine) is pushed out of its usual position.
This can compress the spinal cord and the nerves around it, causing pain which is often accompanied by a feeling like an electric shock going down the legs, or numbness in the legs.
Arthritis is another of the common lower back pain causes. Either osteoarthritis of the spine or rheumatoid arthritis can be a direct cause of lower back pain.
People who suffer from arthritis in other joints such as the hips or knees may also have lower back pain because of irregular ways of walking to compensate for the joint problem.
There are some conditions that people may have had since childhood, which only develop into lower back pain causes in later life. These include a difference in the length of the legs, abnormalities of the feet, hips or pelvis, and spondylolisthesis (a slipped vertebra).
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Besides this there are many other more unusual lower back pain causes. There may be an infection in the spine or a disease such as spinal stenosis or degenerative disc disease.
It is important to see your doctor about severe pain, any pain that continues for longer than you expect, or pain that is accompanied by other symptoms.
In particular, if you have difficulty going to the bathroom or numbness in the genital area, this could be a sign of a condition which requires immediate treatment as a medical emergency.
It is always safer to see a doctor than to try to figure out your possible lower back pain causes by yourself.