3 Most Common Reasons for Back Pain
Lower back pain is one of the leading causes of disability worldwide.
Ever wonder why?
One reason: top risk factors for low back pain are incredibly common—including advancing age, excessive sitting, poor posture, obesity, and family history, to name a few. And while not all the risk factors for low back pain are within our control, there are many ways to prevent and treat this widespread condition.
At Lee Miller Rehabilitation Associates, our physical therapists in Catonsville and Owings Mills, MD are happy to help you figure out the underlying causes of your lower back pain so you can return to the activities you enjoy. And while we diagnose and treat a range of acute and chronic conditions, there are a few common reasons for back pain that we see the most among our patients.
3 Most Common Reasons for Back Pain
At some point, 8 out of 10 of us will experience lower back pain. Here are the three most common underlying causes of all that pain and discomfort:
1. Degenerative Conditions
The human spine is exposed to a lot of force throughout the day, and factors like poor posture and frequent bending or lifting increase these forces even more. Over time, this excess load bearing can lead to degenerative changes (wear and tear) in the hundreds of tissues that make up the spinal column. Getting older can also lead to or worsen degenerative changes in the spine because our spinal tissues tend to lose elasticity, blood flow, and self-healing power as we get age.
Some specific degenerative conditions we diagnose and treat at our physical therapy clinics include:
- Osteoarthritis: wearing down of spinal joints, causing painful “bone on bone” contact
- Lumbar spinal stenosis: narrowing of the spaces naturally found inside the spinal column
- Degenerative disc disease: thinning and degradation of the spinal discs
- Spondylolisthesis: one spinal (vertebral) bone slips forward relative to the one beneath it
2. Pinched Nerves
Throughout your spine, you have multiple pairs of spinal nerves that exit the spinal column. These nerves branch off to provide motor and sensory information in your arms and legs. Sometimes, spinal nerves get pinched at the roots near the spinal column, typically by bulging or herniated discs, bony cysts, narrowed joint spaces, or even tumors in rare cases.
When a spinal nerve becomes pinched, you might experience other symptoms in addition to back pain, including numbness, tingling, weakness, and pain in an arm or leg. Some specific conditions associated with pinched nerves include:
- Lumbar radiculopathy
A pinched nerve can happen suddenly, such as during a car accident, or it can develop gradually over time due to degenerative changes. We can help with both types!
3. “Idiopathic” Back Pain
Believe it or not, one of the most common diagnoses of lower back pain is “idiopathic,” which is a medical term for unknown cause. In other words, it’s not always clear what’s causing a person’s back pain!
Even imaging studies like X-rays and MRIs aren’t always conclusive. For example, many people have herniated discs as seen on MRIs, yet are completely pain-free. But some people have incredibly painful, stiff, and sore backs, even though their imaging comes back perfectly normal.
The good news:
Even “idiopathic” cases of back pain can get better without relying on drugs or surgery. In fact, the CDC recommends non-drug treatments like physical therapy as a first line of treatment for chronic lower back pain—and most acute cases of back pain get better with physical therapy, too.
Back Pain Treatment in Catonsville and Owings Mills: What to Expect
Our Catonsville and Owings Mills physical therapist staff offers evidence-based back pain treatment that gives you relief and improves your function. If you come to see us for back pain, we’ll take you through a thorough history and physical so we can provide the most accurate diagnosis possible. Then, based on our diagnosis and exam findings, we’ll be able to create a custom treatment plan for you, which may include:
- Postural screens
- Spinal joint manipulations and mobilizations
- Therapeutic exercises
- Non-invasive modalities like electrical stimulation, therapeutic ultrasound, and heat or cold therapy
- Patient education about the relationship between pain, sleep, nutrition, stress management, and even your beliefs and mindset
We take a comprehensive approach to back pain that doesn’t stop at just relieving symptoms—we help you identify the underlying contributors to your pain so you can deal with them now and avoid them in the future.
Looking for Back Pain Relief, Without Drugs or Surgery?
If you live near Catonsville or Owings Mills, MD and are wondering if physical therapy can get you the back pain relief you’ve been looking for, contact our Lee Miller Rehabilitation Associates today to schedule an appointment. Call (443) 860-9168 for our Catonsville location or (410) 363-0015 for our Owings Mills location.