Back issues are one of the most frequent complaints by patients to their doctors. Approximately 80% of Americans experience low back pain during their lifetimes, with 15% to 20% experiencing it each year. 8% of all adults in the United States have chronic back pain to the extent that it limits their everyday activities. Back pain is also a leading cause of work-day losses as well as work limitations. It is considered chronic when it is present for more than three months.
Back pain can develop anywhere from the neck to the lower spine. You may also have back stiffness, decreased movement of the lower back, and difficulty standing straight. The pain can range from a muscle aching to a shooting, burning, or stabbing sensation. It can be localized or spread across a wide area and radiate down your leg, worsening with bending, twisting, lifting, standing, or walking.
Low back pain is sometimes also referred to as backache, lumbar pain, back pain, and back strain.
The most common causes of low back pain include:
- Muscle or ligament strain or tears: Back pain may result from an injury from a sudden awkward movement or overuse from repeated heavy lifting. Back muscles and spinal ligaments may end up strained or injured far more seriously, resulting in fractures or compression fractures of bones or damage to the small joints between the spine’s bones.
- Ruptured or herniated discs: Conditions like a ruptured or herniated disc, in which the outer layer of a disc tears and leaks and puts pressure on the spinal cord and nerves, or spondylolisthesis, in which a vertebra slips out of position, can result in pain.
- Arthritis or Osteoarthritis: Degenerative arthritis of the spine, or osteoarthritis of the spine, causes painful fractures in your spine’s vertebrae as your bones become porous and brittle. For some, this is accompanied by spinal stenosis, where the space around the spinal cord narrows. Those with this condition may notice tingling, weakness, numbness, or pain that radiates down an arm or leg.
Your back pain risks also significantly elevate if you are in poor physical condition, with weak muscles in your back, are overweight, have poor posture, or are a smoker.