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5 Common Causes for Lumbar Pain

While low back pain is especially common, the problems are caused by a mixture of conditions or injuries involving the complex network of spinal muscles, nerves, bones, discs, or tendons in the lumbar spine. An affliction to any of the local structures of the lumbar spine can result in radiating pain that may travel to other parts of the body but the symptoms and severity of low back pain vary for each person. These are 5 frequently diagnosed conditions that could be the source of your lumbar spine pain.  

Sciatica attributes to a group of symptoms rather than a single condition. Sciatica is identified by one or multiple symptoms consisting of chronic pain that extends from the lower back down to the buttocks and leg, tingling sensations on the lower extremities, numbness and weakness, or difficulty fulfilling everyday activities like walking or sitting. These occur when the sciatic nerve roots become compressed and irritated due to a hidden condition in the lumbar spine that causes the impingement of the nerves.

Spinal Stenosis
Lumbar spinal stenosis is a progressive condition classified by degeneration in the spine that results in a narrowing of the spinal channel. Through time, the spine gradually changes and degenerates, eventually leading to a narrower spinal canal that begins to pinch the spinal nerve roots and causes the well-known low back pain, tingling, and numbness symptoms. Some people are born with a congenital form of the condition but the majority develop lumbar spine stenosis when degeneration develops in older people, usually over the age of 50.

Another condition due to degeneration in the spine, spondylolisthesis in the lower back occurs when a single vertebra in the lumbar area slips forward over the vertebrae below it, causing the natural structure of the spine to become misaligned. Typical symptoms of the condition include the symptoms of sciatica. However, when stress causes a small fracture in the spinal segments that result in the vertebra shifting forward, this other condition is referred as isthmic spondylolisthesis and commonly occurs in younger individuals.

Sacroiliac Joint Dysfunction
Not all conditions causing low back pain originate from the lumbar spine. Dysfunction in the sacroiliac joint also yields symptoms of sharp pain in the lower back and lower extremities, tingling, and numbness. The sacroiliac joint is located between the sacrum and the back of the hip and functions by supporting the movements of the lower limbs together with the muscles, nerves, and tendons in the lumbar area. With underuse or overuse, the local muscles surrounding the sacroiliac joint become inflamed or tight, leading to sacroiliac joint dysfunction.

Facet Joint Arthritis
Arthritis through degeneration, also known as osteoarthritis, can develop in multiple areas of the body, resulting in the breakdown of the bone and cartilage of the spine from natural wear and tear alterations. From all the degenerative lumbar spine conditions known today, facet joint arthritis is among the most common of them all. The facet joints are aligned on the back of the spine, linking each vertebra together. The joints are covered with articular cartilage but when this erodes with age, the facet joints are prone to develop arthritis, greatly affecting the flexibility and movement of the spine.

Most of the lumbar spine conditions are a result of degeneration that naturally occurs as we age but with the proper treatments and exercises, these can be avoided and prevented. Strengthening the lower back muscles often helps ease the symptoms associated with these conditions and can also prevent certain conditions. It’s essential to consult a health professional when symptoms become present in order to begin treatment as early as possible.

By Dr. Alex Jimenez

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