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What Causes Chronic Low Back Pain?

Article Details
  • Written By: D. Jeffress
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 11 April 2018
  • Copyright Protected:
    2003-2018
    Conjecture Corporation
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Constant pain in the lower back is often more than an annoyance; without proper diagnosis and an appropriate treatment plan, pain usually gets worse and spreads to other parts of the body. An individual who has chronic low back pain may be experiencing symptoms of general strains, osteoporosis, severe arthritis, a pinched nerve, or bulging disks. In addition, some people experience chronic low back pain as a result of cancer.

The most common cause of chronic low back pain is a strained muscle, tendon, or ligament. People who perform heavy lifting or repetitive tasks that require frequent bending, squatting, and standing often experience muscle strains. Individuals who have bad posture, and those who spend long amounts of time at work or home in chairs with poor back support, are at risk of developing strains and muscle spasms that lead to pain in the lower back. In most cases, pain can be relieved in a few days with rest and over-the-counter pain medications.

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Some individuals experience severe chronic pain as a result of herniated spinal disks that put excessive pressure on a main nerve. Disks can herniate and rupture as a result of intensive physical activity or a genetic skeletal disorder, such as scoliosis. When a nerve is pinched in the lower back, pain can shoot down a person's leg, which is often debilitating. Doctors usually prescribe anti-inflammatory drugs and pain relievers, though surgery to remove damaged disks may be required in cases of severe pain.

Osteoporosis and arthritis are major causes of chronic low back pain, especially in older people. Joints in the spine can become stiff and inflamed as a result of arthritis, resulting in constant pain and difficulty sitting and standing. Individuals with osteoporosis often suffer back pain symptoms caused by fragile bones that have fractured and compacted together. The most common treatments for arthritis and osteoporosis are prescription anti-inflammatory medications and vitamin supplements.

Cancerous tumors can cause intense pain as they compress disks and nerves in the lower back. As tumors grow and cancer spreads throughout the body, pain usually increases and patients begin to suffer from fatigue and weakness. When a tumor is identified early in its development, an oncologist can usually remove it from the spine, releasing pressure on nerves and preventing its spread.

Doctors often suggest that people take precautionary measures to prevent chronic low back pain. Individuals can consume healthy foods that contain calcium for strong bones, avoid excessive amounts of caffeine and alcohol, quit smoking, and engage in regular moderate exercise to condition muscles and ligaments. Physicians also encourage people to maintain good posture, sleep on comfortable mattresses, and avoid heavy lifting.

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