Low back pain (LBP) is a concerning epidemic among the adult population, with studies indicating that up to 23% of the world’s adults suffer from chronic LBP. In the U.S. alone, it’s estimated that nearly 65 million people endure some form of LBP, with 16 million being adults. These are worrying stats, and we fear they may only worsen as our aging society continues to grow.
Thus, it’s high time we understood what causes this condition and how we can address its symptoms. The good news? This short blog takes a dig at the possible mechanical and non-mechanical causes of LBP and offers you a few tips on dealing with them.
What are the Possible Mechanical Causes of Lower Back Pain (LBP)?
Before we jump to the causes, let’s first define mechanical. If your LBP can increase, decrease, or be reproduced by movement, positioning, or activity, it’s likely caused by something mechanical. So, what could cause mechanical back pain? Well, there are many potential culprits:
- Arthritis (Osteoarthritis, OS). Osteoarthritis is an inflammatory disease where the cartilage between bones in joints wears down, causing the bone to rub against bone. It’s also known as degenerative arthritis because it occurs when joint surfaces wear out over time. When osteoarthritis affects the lumbar spine, it often manifests as LBP.
- Disc Herniation (DH). A herniated disc is a bulge in the soft tissue surrounding the spinal cord or nerve roots within the vertebral canal. Disc herniation is also one of the most common sources of LBP. If the bulging disc extends to the spinal canal, you may experience compression of the nerves or spinal cord.
- Nerve Entrapment/Stenosis. Stenosis refers to narrowing a passageway; entrapment means trapping a nerve or other body part inside a narrow space. Both conditions can occur in the neck, shoulders, arms, legs, hands, feet, as well as the lower back. They’re both extremely painful and can lead to paralysis.
- Soft Tissue Restrictions/Injuries. Soft tissue injuries include muscle tears, ligament sprains, strains, tendonitis, bursitis, etc. These injuries are typically associated with sudden movements and can cause LBP due to the resulting inflammation.
- Muscular Strain. Muscle strain happens when muscles become injured during exercise or sports activities. It can result in soreness, stiffness, swelling, as well as weakness.
- Ligament Sprain. Ligaments are tough bands of connective tissue that attach bones to each other. They act as shock absorbers for the spine. Sprained ligaments can also cause severe pain and limit mobility.
What are the Possible Non-Mechanical Causes of Lower Back Pain (LBP)?
Non-mechanical refers to any type of pain that remains unaffected by movement, positioning, or activity. Here are some examples of non-mechanical LBP:
- Inflammatory Arthritis (Umbrella). IA refers to a joint inflammation resulting from an overactive immune system. The inflammation can cause pain and stiffness in the lower back.
- Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA). RA is another form of arthritis that involves inflammation of the synovial membranes lining the joints. In addition to causing pain, it can affect the spine and make it stiffer than usual. Besides, active movement during a flare-up may increase the symptoms.
Other non-mechanical LBP signs to watch out for include:
- Weight loss
- Excruciating pain at night when out of weight-bearing
- Referred pain in such organs as the appendix (lower right), kidney, and large intestine
How Can Symptoms of Mechanical and Non-Mechanical LBP be Addressed?
Here’s a quick breakdown of how you can treat mechanical and non-mechanical LBP:
The immediate solution for mechanical lower back pain is physical therapy evaluation. This can come in the form of:
- Therapeutic exercise. Therapeutic exercises strengthen weak muscles and improve flexibility. The goal is to reduce the risk of future injury.
- Postural training. Postural training helps correct poor posture and maintain good alignment throughout your day.
- Education on positions/movements. Education on proper postures and movements will help prevent future injuries as well as alleviate discomfort symptoms like sciatica.
- Home exercise plan (HEP). A HEP is a personalized program of therapeutic exercises that you’ll do every day. It should be tailored to your specific needs and goals.
If you have non-mechanistic LBP, the best cause of action is to schedule an appointment with a physician immediately for further interventions. Non-mechanical LPB may affect your ability to engage in physical exercises. You don’t want to rush to physical therapies like massage or acupuncture without seeking medical attention first.
A qualified doctor will examine your condition thoroughly as well as recommend treatment options based on the findings. The doctor may also prescribe medications to relieve pain and muscle spasms.
Cawley PT is Here to Help!
Back pain is one of the most common complaints among people today. However, there are many causes of LBP. Some of these causes are minor, while others are pretty serious. If you’ve been experiencing lower back pain lately, our team can help alleviate your symptoms. We’re an experienced team of physical therapists helping patients like you for almost two decades. We leverage compassion, next-level expertise, as well as the latest medical equipment to provide practical solutions to your LBP complications.
So don’t suffer silently! Call 570-208-2787 or email firstname.lastname@example.org, and we’ll be happy to assist you.