Back pain is a common problem in Australian adults with 80% of people experiencing back pain at some point in their life. Of these, 10% experience significant, long term loss of function or disability. Commonly, the presence of back pain decreases quality of life. This means that it prevents or interferes with you engaging in your normal day-to-day activities.
Lower Back pain accounts for approximately 7% of injuries in sports. In children and adolescents, a growth spurt may lead to a muscle tendon imbalance with tightnessi nsome mouscles and weakness in others. Commonly, abrupt increase in training intensity or frequency or poor technique may result in back injury.
Commonly, back pain may be caused by incorrect lifting, twisting or sudden awkward movements through the spine. Sometimes there is no obvious cause to the source of pain, such as progressive increases in pain as a result of poor posture. Back pain can be a result of pathology within the joints of the spine, soft tissues (for example muscle or ligaments), intervertebral discs or spinal nerves. It is not uncommon that pathology of the lower back to be associated with pain, numbness and/or pins and needles of the lower limbs.
The following specific conditions can also cause back pain. Because there's a definable cause, the conditions often also have a defined treatment.
- Disc Bulge/protrusion This may result in local back pain and/or pain into the legs.
- Sciatica. Commonly, patients will experice sharp shooting pain through the buttocks and down the back of their leg
- Spinal stenosis. This condition occurs when the space around the spinal cord and nerve roots narrows, commonly due to arthritis and bone overgrowth. This can press or pinch a nerve.
- Spondylosis. Spondylosis is a type of arthritis affecting the spine. It is due to the degenerative changes in the spine that often come with aging.
- Spondylolisthesis. This condition occurs when one vertebra in the spinal column slips forward over another.
These rare but far more serious causes of back pain also have specific treatment related to the underlying cause.
- Cauda equina syndrome. This is a serious neurological problem causing weakness in the legs, numbness in the "saddle" or groin area, and loss of bowel or bladder control.
- Cancer in the spine. A tumor within the spine
- Infection of the spine. Often associated with fever, heat and tenderness over the spine
Having a good understanding of the cause of your lower back pain and gaining good advice and treatment regarding the management of your pain is crucial to the health of your back. If you injure your lower back it is advised by your physiotherapist to seek treatment immediately to minimize the duration of the pain.