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Lower Back Pain: Possible Causes of Symptoms

If you are suffering with lower back pain, knowing the cause of your symptoms is key to being able to relieve them. Our chiropractors outline several different causes of low back pain below.

Slipped Disc

Slipped Disc

This is a very common cause of low back pain, although the term itself can be slightly misleading.

Discs are located in between the segments of your spine and help with mobility. Over time, and with repetitive movement, these discs can become slightly compressed. As a disc is compressed, it spreads outwards by a small amount. This spread is referred to as a bulging disc.

A disc bulge can become painful, with pain usually affecting the mid-line of your back or just off to one side. Often the pain can come on quite suddenly, leading to the misunderstanding that the disc has suddenly slipped out of place, but in nearly all circumstances the disc has been bulging for some time previously.

If the disc touches a nerve this can cause numbness, tingling, burning or pain down the leg.

Sciatica

This is the term used to describe pain or other sensation caused by irritation of one of the nerves exiting your back and running down your legs.

Medically speaking, sciatica is quite a vague term and there are a number of conditions that can mimic it, underlining the importance of receiving a proper diagnosis based on physical and neurological exam.

Many people feel that a scan is required to diagnose sciatica, but this is not recommended unless there are complicating factors present.

Sacroiliac Joint Irritation

This problem can cause lower back pain, leg pain or groin pain, or all three. The sacroiliac joint is located between the spine and the pelvis, with one on either side. Its job is primarily to shock absorb when you put your foot down during walking or running.

Irritation can occur for several different reasons, but it is most common in women and particularly during or just after pregnancy.

Spondylosis

Spondylosis is osteoarthritis of the spine. Osteoarthritis is incredibly prevalent, becoming more common with age, and is often described as wear and tear.

It is often present with no pain at all, although it can limit movement and cause localised pain. If very severe it can cause irritation or compression of nerves as they exit the spine leading to leg or arm pain.

Spondylolisthesis

Spondylolisthesis

Just to confuse the unwary reader. Spondylolisthesis bears no relation to spondylosis, other than they both affect the spine (spondy=spine).

Spondylolisthesis occurs when one spinal segment slips forward relative to the one below. This is usually a gradual slip and typically either occurs in response to activity (gymnasts/ballet dancers/powerlifters) or in elderly people.

There are varying grades of severity and this needs to be taken into account when choosing a treatment method. It is one of the only causes of back pain that requires a scan to evaluate, but fortunately is very uncommon.

Ankylosing Spondylitis

Much less common than any of the above causes of black pain, ankylosing spondylitis (AS) is a rheumatic condition where ligaments within the spine gradually increase in rigidity. This leads to stiffness and immobility.

AS is more common in young men, and is diagnosed using a combination of imaging and blood tests.

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