Eight out of ten Americans will suffer from debilitating lower back pain at some point in their lives.
Watch this video about one of our patients who suffered daily but now lives a full life!
Eight out of ten Americans will suffer from debilitating lower back pain at some point in their lives. While common, if left untreated, the conditions that cause lower back pain can lead to permanent, debilitating health problems. Get the facts about the symptoms and causes of lower back pain, how it can be treated and what may happen if you delay effective medical care.
Lower back pain affects the bony spine, vertebral discs, ligaments around the spine and discs, spinal cord and nerves, muscles, as well as the internal organs of the pelvis, chest and abdomen. About 80 percent of American adults will suffer from lower back pain at some point in their lives. Not just the temporary aches, soreness or discomfort we all experience from time to time, but the kind of lower back pain that results in a change of lifestyle, loss of freedom and keeps you home from work and away from doing what you love.
Lower back pain often, but not always, begins as a dull ache, punctuated by sudden, sharp pain. From there, the pain can expand into the shoulders and upper arms, or it can radiate down into the legs.
Pain lasting more than six weeks is medically classified as “acute,” while pain lasting six to 12 weeks is “subchronic,” and pain lasting more than 12 weeks is considered “chronic.” Whatever the level and duration of your pain, one thing is certain: the most common causes of lower back pain are all progressive. That means, the longer you delay treatment, the worse the pain will become.
Many believe lower back pain is just “something that happens” as we age. While it’s true back pain does tend to increase as we age, the fact is, lower back pain is a clear symptom of multiple progressive, debilitating medical problems.
Three categories of lower back pain
Medically, back pain is diagnosed as one of three categories: mechanical, non-mechanical and referred.
Mechanical back pain is isolated in the spinal joints, soft tissue, vertebrae and discs. Example diagnoses of mechanical back pain include lumbosacral strain, lumbago, idiopathic low back pain and lumbar syndrome. Mechanical back pain represents about 97 percent of all lower back pain diagnoses made by primary care physicians.
Non-mechanical back pain is often a symptom of a more serious medical condition. Though rare, accounting for about one percent of reported cases, non-mechanical back pain can be a symptom of conditions including infection, inflammatory arthritis, neoplasia or Paget disease.
Referred pain, also relatively rare, is pain felt some distance from its cause. For example, kidney problems may cause pain in the lumbar region.
Because lower back pain is progressive, can be debilitating, and may be caused by many different serious medical conditions, it is always best to consult a physician as soon as you begin noticing symptoms.
What happens when you experience lower back pain?
Sometimes back pain comes and goes, seemingly on its own. This fluctuation can lead us to dismiss symptoms as “no big deal” or “just another ache or pain.” While it’s true some lower back pain can be caused by wear and tear over time, this does not mean your pain is “common” or that there is not a serious underlying medical issue. While all lower back pain can limit our strength, flexibility and fun, some conditions that involve lower back pain, if untreated, may lead to increased pain, numbness, tingling, and even incontinence or loss of motor control.
Serious medical conditions associated with lower back pain include Degenerative Disc Disease, Herniated Discs, Radiculopathy, Spinal Stenosis, Complex Regional Pain Syndrome, and Facet Joint Pain. Click the links in each description for more information about these conditions and specific symptoms related to each one.
Conditions Associated With Back Pain
One of the most common causes of pain in your back, knees, hips and other joints is a progressive degenerative condition known as Osteoarthritis. Symptoms include increasing stiffness, tenderness and weakness in the affected joints. As it progresses…
Spinal stenosis is an abnormal narrowing of the spinal canal that affects the spinal cord and nerve roots. This narrowing can put added pressure on your spinal cord and the nerves traveling through the spine to the extremities causing intense pain…
Degenerative Disk Disease
Our spinal vertebrae and spinal cord are protected by fibrocartilaginous discs that act as shock absorbers, helping our spines move, flex and support our weight. Over time, the outer shell of these discs can be damaged by injury or simple wear and tear. As these tears increase, without healing, the result can be debilitating chronic pain…
Complex Regional Pain Syndrome
Complex regional pain syndrome is an uncommon form of chronic pain that usually affects limbs. Complex regional pain syndrome typically develops after an injury, surgery, stroke or heart attack, but the pain…
Traditional treatments for lower back pain
If the condition causing your lower back pain is relatively minor or in the early stages, Dr. Skaliy may suggest treatments including over-the-counter pain medication or preventative treatments such as weight reduction, regular stretching, correct posture, physical therapy and low-impact aerobic exercise.
However, if the condition is sufficiently advanced, the traditionally suggested treatment involves spinal fusion surgery. This highly-invasive surgical procedure involves “fusing” two vertebrae together, stopping any motion at the degenerated disc. Due to the invasive nature of spinal fusion surgery, long recovery times, including lengthy hospital stays, as well as painful physical therapy, are typical.
This highly-invasive surgery involves removing the roof of bone overlying the spinal canal, placing screws and bars within the spine to stabilize the spine. Additional risk factors for spinal fusion surgery include significant pain, limited physical activity for an extended period, and, in some cases, minimal to negligible pain reduction.
Dr. Skaliy says:
“Even successful fusion surgery results in permanent changes to quality of life. Movement is limited at the fused joint, flexibility is diminished and stress to other joints is increased. Approximately one-in-three fusion surgery recipients develop disc degenerations at other points along the spine.”
While fusion surgery is often billed as a “permanent” solution to spinal stenosis, this is not the outcome for far too many patients. If you opt for spinal fusion surgery, there is a risk that you could undergo painful, permanent fusion surgery, followed by painful, lengthy therapy and still see little or no real reduction in pain.
When you see all these symptoms and conditions, I know it can be a lot to take in all at once. You just want the pain to stop, so you can feel better and live life like you once did … but there’s so much information out there, so much advice, it can feel overwhelming. Don’t be discouraged.
Remember this: The goal of all of us here at Atlanta Spine Specialists is to see you totally pain free. I’ve been successfully treating patients in pain for more than 30 years, and I am confident we have a solution that can help you too. Please take some time to review the symptoms, conditions and solutions pages on this site, as well as the wealth of articles, that will provide you with knowledge and affirm your hope that there is help out there for you. We would love to be part of your personal pain solution.
I encourage you to click here or fill out the form below to schedule an appointment, so we can personally discuss your situation and the best solutions to your lower back pain.
Facet Joint Pain
Facet Joints, found on both sides of the back of the spine, guide and limit the motion of the spine. When working properly, they allow flexibility in the back while limiting overextension. However, when inflamed or irritated, these joints can cause serious pain…
Medial Branch Inflammation
If vertebrae facet joints are inflamed, medial branch nerves send pain signals to the brain. Conditions known to cause Medial Branch Inflammation include Osteoarthritis, Spinal Stenosis and traumatic injury…
Better Solutions for Back Pain
At Atlanta Spine Specialist we are dedicated to helping people live a pain free life. In addition to these treatments we offer other minimally invasive treatments to heal your body.
Please call our office to learn more about these options (770) 844-3242.