The lumbar spine, or low back, is a remarkably well-engineered structure of interconnecting bones, joints, nerves, ligaments, and muscles all working together to provide support, strength, and flexibility. However, this complex structure also leaves the low back susceptible to injury and pain.
Back pain is a common reason for absence from work and doctor visits. Although back pain may be painful and uncomfortable, it is not usually serious. Even though back pain can affect people of any age, it is significantly more common among adults aged between 35 and 55 years. Experts say that back pain is associated with the way our bones, muscles and ligaments in our backs work and connect together.
Pain in the lower back may be linked to the bony lumbar spine, discs between the vertebrae, ligaments around the spine and discs, spinal cord and nerves, lower back muscles, abdomen and pelvic internal organs, and the skin around the lumbar area. Pain in the upper back may be due to disorders of the aorta, tumors in the chest, and spine inflammation.
The human back is composed of a complex structure of muscles, ligaments, tendons, disks and bones - the segments of our spine are cushioned with cartilage-like pads called disks. Problems with any of these components can lead to back pain. In some cases of back pain, its cause is never found.
Strain - the most common causes of back pain are:
- Strained muscles
- Strained ligaments
- A muscle spasm
Things that can lead to strains or spasms include:
- Lifting something improperly
- Lifting something that is too heavy
- The result of an abrupt and awkward movement
Back pain can also be the result of some everyday activity or poor posture. Examples include:
- Bending awkwardly
- Pushing something
- Pulling something
- Carrying something
- Lifting something
- Standing for long periods
- Bending down for long periods
- Muscle tension
- Straining the neck forward, such as when driving or using a computer
- Long driving sessions without a break, even when not hunched
A risk factor is something which increases the likelihood of developing a condition or disease. For example, obesity significantly raises the risk of developing diabetes type 2. Therefore, obesity is a risk factor for diabetes type 2.
The following factors are linked to a higher risk of developing low back pain:
- A mentally stressful job
- Pregnancy - pregnant women are much more likely to get back pain
- A sedentary lifestyle
- Age - older adults are more susceptible than young adults or children
- Gender - back pain is more common among females than males
- Obesity and overweight
- Strenuous physical exercise (especially if not done properly)
- Strenuous physical work.