There are many types of back pain and the lower back is the most common site of back pain. It is made up of a large number of strong muscles and also the bones that make up the spine, which are called vertebrae. The vertebrae are made up of a vertebral body, vertebral arches, and the vertebral discs. There are also key ligaments and of course the spinal cord and nerves. The vertebral discs are made of a strong gel like material and act as shock absorbers. The spine is adapted for movement and weight bearing. The spinal cord is protected by the spine.
What are the different types of lower back pain?
General Non-Specific Pain: This is the most common type of back pain and most people will be affected by this type of back pain at some point in their life. It is often not clear exactly what is causing the pain and it may in fact be a combination of factors. This pain generally originates from the muscles of the spine.
Sciatica: This occurs in less than five out of every one hundred cases of back pain. Sciatica is the term generally used to describe ‘nerve root pain’. This means that a nerve coming out from the spinal cord may be irritated by pressure or movement. The pain may ‘radiate’ to the area supplied by the nerve, leading to pain in other parts of the body such as the thigh. Sufferers may also experience pins and needs of weakness of muscle supplied by the nerve. Sciatica is very commonly caused by the prolapse of one of the vertebral discs.
Cauda equina syndrome: A very rare condition caused by pressure on the lower part of the spinal cord. Sufferers of this syndrome have problems with bowel and bladder function, numbness in the saddle area, and weakness in one or both legs. Not everyone has all these features. This syndrome is an emergency requiring immediate intervention by a doctor – call for an ambulance if you are concerned you may have developed this.
Joint arthritis: Takes various forms including osteoarthritis which is common in the elderly, ankylosing spondylitis and rheumatoid arthritis. The conditions are only rarely the cause of back pain.
Tumours and Infection: Very rare, occurring in less than one of every one hundred cases of back pain. Often causes pain in the upper or mid-back and is associated with other conditions and diseases. Also associated with unusual patterns of pain, for example pain at night when sleeping. See your doctor if you are concerned about these rare causes of back pain.
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