Print Version

Low Back Pain

Low Back Pain

Low back pain is pain that occurs in the lumbar spine. This type of pain can be broadly divided into two categories: mechanical pain, and compressive pain.

Mechanical pain is often called back strain because it is linked with the movement, or "the mechanics" of the spine. This type of pain occurs when injury to the spine's discs, facet joints, ligaments, or muscles results in inflammation. It is called mechanical pain because it relates to the mechanics of your spine. The more you use your back, the more it hurts.

Mechanical pain can be caused by many conditions in the spine. These conditions include fractures of the vertebra, muscle strains in the paraspinal muscles, ligament injuries in the spine, and wear and tear of the spine's joints and discs.

Compressive pain is a result of pressure or irritation on the spinal cord, nerves that leave the spine. For example, if an intervertebral disc herniates (usually called a ruptured disc) and pushes into the spinal canal, it can cause problems with the nerve. Usually this pressure or irritation causes pain, numbness, and muscle weakness where the nerve travels.

Each part of the spine can cause pain. It can be helpful to understand which part of the spine is causing your back pain and whether the pain is from a compressive or mechanical problem.

Causes of Low Back Pain

Low back pain can be caused by a number of spinal conditions. Click on a link to learn more about the possible causes of low back pain.

Symptoms of Low Back Pain

The symptoms of low back pain vary depending on the cause of the pain, and include:

  • Muscle spasms, cramping and stiffness
  • Leg pain, tingling, numbness or weakness
  • Pain and stiffness that gets worse over time and lasts longer than 3 to 6 months

Low Back Pain in Athletes

Athletes are at greater risk of sustaining a lumber spine injury due to physical activity. Whether the sport is skiing, basketball, football, gymnastics, soccer, running, golf, or tennis-the spine undergoes a lot of stress, absorption of pressure, twisting, turning, and even bodily impact. This strenuous activity puts stress on the back that can cause injury to even the finest and most fit athletes.

Though the entire spine is used when playing sports, it is estimated that five to ten percent of all athletic injuries are related to the lumbar spine. Many cases of low back pain in athletes can be traced to a specific event or trauma; others are brought about by repetitive minor injuries.

It is sometimes hard for an aggressive athlete to consider changing training schedules. It is also hard to accept the fact that a serious disease may exist. All athletes who suffer from low back pain should seek medical advice. Some situations might require reducing or stopping athletic activity until the problem is resolved. The body's ability to be active is worth preserving.

Even though low back pain can sometimes be treated without major disruption to a person's life, athletes are often reluctant to seek medical help. Many of them deny or minimize complaints in order to avoid consequences, such as: having to decrease activity in order to recover, losing a position or being removed from a team, missing a competition, or letting the team down. Some athletes simply do not want to bother seeing a doctor for pain; they hope it will recover on its own.

Many athletes-from the weekend warrior to the elite professional athlete-buck up their strength, pop some over-the-counter pain medication, and tolerate the pain for the sake of the game and personal enjoyment. But avoiding medical help can lead to further and more serious injury. Without medical help, the anatomic damage can sometimes lead to permanent exclusion from sporting activities.

Print Version