Introduction to Low Back Pain

Introduction to Low Back Pain
27/06/2016 Margarida Moreira

Back pain! Back pain is one of the most common complaints!

Low back pain is in the top four of most common types of pain in USA – 8 out of 10 adults will experience an acute episode of back pain at some point in their lifetime. Respondents of a National Institute of Health Statistics survey designate that low back pain – or lumbar region, which starts below the ribcage. This condition can be caused by a variety of problems in the spinal muscles, nerves, bones, discs or tendons in the lumbar spine – was the most frequent (27%), followed by a severe headache or migraine pain (15%), neck pain (15%) and facial ache or pain (4%) [1]

‘Many different structures in the back and neck are capable of producing pain. There are the large nerve roots that go to the legs and smaller nerves that innervate (supply the nerves to) the spine itself. The large paired back muscles may be strained, and the bones, ligaments and joints may be injured.’ – Peter F. Ullrich, Jr., MD, Orthopedic Surgeon (retired) [2]

And if you believe this is a typical complaint among sedentary people, you are wrong! Even highly-trained athletes may experience low back pain. This condition can be a result from:

  • Exhaustion from a long day of sitting at the office;
  • Weight-bearing sport or exercise that involves running, jumping, or rapid dynamic movements;
  • Caused by direct injury or trauma;
  • Excess weight , smoking, and stress can also contribute to back pain;
  • Occasionally, it may be the result of certain diseases, including bone diseases, arthritis, viral infections or column defects.

Younger adults (30 to 60 year olds) are more likely to experience back pain from the disc space itself (e.g. lumbar disc herniation or degenerative disc disease) or from a back muscle strain or other soft tissue strain.  Older adults (over 60) are more likely to suffer from pain related to joint degeneration (such as osteoarthritis or spinal stenosis) or from a compression fracture.’ –  Peter F. Ullrich, Jr., MD, Orthopedic Surgeon [3]

Pain that lasts more than three months is considered chronic (5% to 10% of cases will become chronic ). If your pain is not better within 72 hours, you should consult a doctor. Exercise in a safe and low-impact sports such as swimming or walking can also improve you recover by strengthening back muscles and abdominal.

Keep in mind that with all the complexity involved with back pain diagnosis and treatment, it is sometimes not attainable for one physician to know enough to be able to make the right recommendations. Even if it is critical pain, there rarely is continuous tissue damage. Most pain syndromes are due to inflammation, particularly in the acute stage, which typically lasts for two weeks to three months.


[1] National Centers for Health Statistics, Chartbook on Trends in the Health of Americans 2006, Special Feature: Pain. Retrieved June 27, 2016, from  http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/hus/hus06.pdf

[2] Ullrich, P., MD. (n.d.). Introduction to Back Pain and Neck Pain. Retrieved June 27, 2016, from http://www.spine-health.com/conditions/lower-back-pain/introduction-back-pain-and-neck-pain

[3] Ullrich, P., MD. (n.d.). Lower Back Pain Symptoms, Diagnosis, and Treatment. Retrieved June 27, 2016, from http://www.spine-health.com/conditions/lower-back-pain/lower-back-pain-symptoms-diagnosis-and-treatment

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