Chronic lower back pain may be caused by a number of factors ranging from the easily treated to conditions that may require more extensive treatment. So that begs the questions: What causes chronic lower back pain? Some causes may be treated by nothing more than bed rest and restriction to light physical activity, while others may be serious as to require surgical procedures.
One of the most common causes of lower back pain is a herniated or ruptured spinal disc. It is important to realize that the discs in the vertebrae are subject to constant pressure, and this may cause them to weaken over time. When this happens, the cartilage in the vertebrae may bulge and be forced into the space that houses the spinal cord, causing pressure on a nerve. In most cases, this happens in the lower part of the spine, producing the characteristic symptoms of lower back pain.
As painful as this condition is, it can lead to a much more serious and more painful problem wherein the disc actually ruptures. Called cauda equina syndrome, the condition occurs when the disc is forced into the spinal canal, compressing the lumbar and sacral nerves. If left untreated, this may result in permanent neurological damage.
Another common cause of chronic lower back pain is sciatica. This is a condition, in which one or more discs places pressure on the sciatic nerve, which is the large nerve that runs through the spinal column towards the pelvis. This condition is characterized by a burning or shock-like pain that is accompanied by pain in the buttocks, which may even extend through the entire leg. In more serious cases of sciatica, the patient may experience numbness instead of pain, and he or she may even lose control of the leg. Sciatica may be caused a tumor or a cyst, metastatic disease, or the degeneration of the sciatic nerve.
Some cases of lower back pain may be caused by spinal degeneration, which results from wear and tear of the disc. This leads to the narrowing of the spinal canal, resulting in morning stiffness, or pain that occurs after walking or standing for extended periods.
Osteoporosis is common condition for older people, and it is yet another one of the common causes of chronic lower back pain. The condition occurs when the density and strength of the bone decrease over time, increasing the risk of fractures. Although the condition may occur in men, women are more likely to develop the disease, with northern European women being particularly prone to developing the condition.
Some cases of lower back pain may be caused by irregularities in the skeletal structure that results in considerable strain on the vertebrae and the connected muscles, tendons, and ligaments. Among the conditions in this category are scoliosis, kyphosis, lordosis, back extension, and back flexion.
Lower back pain may also result from a condition known as Fibromyalgia, which is a chronic condition characterized by pain in the muscles and bones, overall fatigue, and “tender points” throughout the body, most commonly in neck, shoulders, hips and of course, the spine.