Dr. Qu Answers Common Questions About Low Back Pain

“How do I know if my back pain is serious?”

Low back pain can have many causes that are not due to underlying disease. Generally, low back pain that lasts longer than one to two weeks should warrant consulting a physician. Low back pain accompanied by other serious symptoms such as weakness in one or more legs, can be a cause for concern. Loss of bladder and bowel control can be a sign of serious nerve compression, meaning that the nerves at the end of the spinal cord have either been compressed, damaged or paralyzed. Damage to the nerves at the end of the spinal cord can be the result of a herniated disc, spinal fracture, spinal stenosis and/or trauma to the spine. 

Dr. Qu educates patient on spine by pennpain.com

“What are the most common causes of acute low back pain?”

The most common cause of acute lower back pain is muscle ligament stress or strain. Strains are a result of over stretching muscles in the back causing tears or damage. Muscle sprains are the result of damage to the ligament that connects the muscle to bone. Common causes of muscle strain and muscle sprain include: 

  1. A fall or an injury to the back and spinal cord
  2. Poor posture
  3. Lifting heavy objects repeatedly
  4. Injury to the back through physical activity and sports

Sprain and strain to the low back is generally acute and does not last longer than one to two weeks. If your back pain lasts longer than one to two weeks, this is an indication that your pain may be caused by something more serious.

Dr. Qu educates patient Peggy with spine model.

“What are the most common causes of chronic low back pain?”

Low back pain is considered chronic if it lasts longer than 3 months. Chronic low back pain is most commonly associated with an irritated nerve or a disc or joint problem. Common causes of chronic low back pain include:

  • Lumbar Disc Herniation: the soft tissue of the disc protrudes outside of the spinal column irritating the nearby nerve. 
  • Degenerative Disc Disease: loss of hydration within the intervertebral discs over time. 
  • Spinal Stenosis: the narrowing of the spinal canal. This can affect one or more levels of the spine.
  • Spondylolisthesis: when one of the lower vertebrae slides forward over the bone beneath it. 
  • Osteoarthritis: wear and tear to the disc and the surrounding facet joints.This condition is associated with age. This condition is also referred to as degenerative disc disease or spondylosis.
  • Compression Fracture: collapse of the vertebra. Most commonly associated with a fall and is common in elderly individuals.

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