Lower back pain affects the lower portion of the spine, between the ribs and the legs, and is a common source of discomfort. It is one of the most common causes of job-related disabilities. If left untreated, it can greatly impact the overall quality of life, limiting the ability to lead a physically active lifestyle. While most types of lower back pain can heal within a few days, many people suffer from recurring, chronic back pain.
There are many different causes of pain in the lower back. Most instances are the result of muscle or ligament strains. Other sources include injuries or overuse, pressure placed on the nerve roots, herniated discs or bone growths as a result of osteoarthritis, spinal tumors, arthritis, and bacterial infections.
Depending on the pain and the severity of the injury, the symptoms of lower back pain can vary and a myriad of symptoms may be present. Symptoms include general pain, numbness and tingling, muscle spasms, and dull or sharp pains in one or both legs. In rare instances there may be numbness and tingling sensations in both legs and loss of bowel control. This can occur as a result of compression of the nerves at the end of the spinal cord and emergency medical treatment should be sought immediately.
Typical treatment options for back pain include rest, anti-inflammatory medications, epidural steroid injections, cortisone injections, physical therapy, heat and cold therapy, massage and acupuncture. In severe cases, surgery may be required. Surgical options include fusion surgery; both laminectomy and microdiscectomy surgeries have proven successful in relieving the pressure on compressed nerve roots.