Back pain is debilitating and very painful, limiting your physical movement in inconvenient and painful ways. It's also a very common problem that tends to affect millions of Americans. In fact, 8 out of 10 Americans will experience back pain at some point in their lives, whether that's acute pain that lasts only a short while, or chronic pain that lasts longer than three months. Lower back pain is a frequent area of concern. If you've experienced pain in your lower back recently, it might be one of these four common conditions. Fortunately, there are treatments options available.
Strains and Sprains
The most common source of acute lower back pain is a muscle strain or ligament sprain. Strains happen when muscles in the lower back are torn. Sprains involve over-extended or torn ligaments, the tissue that connects bones. Both problems can be caused by similar incidents such as sports injuries, sudden unexpected movements like slips and falls, poor posture, and lifting heavy objects, particularly when a twisting movement of the spine is involved. Treatment is the same for both sprains and strains and typically involves non-invasive procedures like icing the spot of the injury, physical therapy, and possibly medications like muscle relaxants and anti-inflammatories.
One common source of chronic back pain, or pain that lasts for more than three months, is a compression fracture. This is a fracture that occurs in the area of the cylindrical vertebrae when pressure and weak bones cause the bone to compress and cave in on itself. The weakness of the bone may be due to osteoporosis. Treatment of a compression fracture may include bed rest, bracing, physical therapy, and medications. In more serious cases, surgery might be required.
Ruptured or Herniated Discs
Another common source of chronic lower back pain is a ruptured disc. This occurs when the tissue that cushions the bones of your spine, the discs, bulge or rupture. The result is often pressure on your nerves resulting in severe pain. However, a bulging or ruptured disc may have no pain associated with it at all if no nerves are affected. Treatment often includes bed rest, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications, physical therapy, or epidural steroid injection. Most patients don't need surgery but a small percentage may require it.
This condition occurs through wear and tear on the cartilage that cushions disc and facet joints and it also affects the joints themselves through changes in the connective tissues. It typically develops slowly over time, appearing with symptoms like pain, stiffness, grating sensations, swelling, etc. This condition can't be cured or reversed but it can be treated through physical therapy, medications, cortisone and lubrication injections, and possibly joint replacement.
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