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Guide to Low Back Pain - Common Low Back Conditions

Common Low Back Conditions

A wide variety of low back problems can cause pain and other symptoms, such as stiffness, weakness or numbness.  The most common conditions that cause low back pain include:

  • Muscle strain. One of the common causes of low back pain is strain/sprain of the muscles or ligaments of the low back. A strain occurs when the muscle or other soft tissue is over-stretched or torn. These injuries are most often caused by heavy lifting, twisting while lifting, or a sudden movement or fall. Pain is usually localized and caused by the inflammation of area surrounding the injury. While a pulled muscle is not serious and will heal with time, it can be extremely painful. 
  • Herniated disc. When the inner core of a lumbar disc leaks out (herniates) it can place direct pressure on the spinal nerve, causing pain to radiate from the leg all the way down to the foot. A herniated disc is one of the common causes of sciatica.
  • Degenerative disc disease.  The term degenerative refers to the degenerating disc, which can cause pain through inflammation of nerve roots or pressure placed on nerve endings.
  • Isthmic spondylolisthesis. If there is a small fracture in a joint that attaches two vertebrae in the back, it can allow one vertebra to slip forward over the other.  This can pinch the nerve, causing low back pain and leg pain.
  • Degenerative spondylolisthesis.  As a part of the aging process, sometimes the facet joints in the back of the spine can allow too much motion and one vertebral body can slip forward onto the other, causing pressure to be placed on the spinal nerves.
  • Spinal stenosis.  As part of the aging process, and often associated with degenerative conditions like osteoarthritis, the facet joints in the back of the spine can get larger. This can put pressure on the spinal nerve roots in the lower back, resulting in pain that begins in the back and can travel all the way down the leg.

There are many more possible causes of lower back pain: the above summarizes the most common causes.  It is important to note that many types of low back pain actually have no identifiable cause; but this doesn’t mean that the pain is not real and the patient’s pain still needs to be treated.


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The information provided herein should not be used as a substitute for medical advice in any way.  A licensed medical professional should be consulted for any and all medical conditions and symptoms.

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