Are the Muscles or Vertebrae Causing Your Low Back Pain?

Are the muscles or vertebrae causing your low back pain?

Chiropractic Raleigh NC Woman Low Back Pain

Low back pain is one of the most common reasons for all chiropractic and healthcare visits in the United States. Most of the time lower back pain is coming from problems in the musculoskeletal system.

Although, there are conditions that are typically more serious that cause lower back pain that is unrelated to the musculoskeletal system, like low back pain related to cancer, infection, and an aneurysm.

Lower back pain can limit activity, lead to disability, and reduce the quality of life.

As we age and our joints undergo more wear and tear and the discs in the spine degenerate, low back pain related to age becomes even more common. Age-related low back pain affects more than 50% of people over the age of 60.

The spinal column is made up of vertebrae, or bones, discs which are cartilage and gel-like material, nerves, ligaments, and low back muscles.

The ligaments and muscles hold the vertebrae in place and allow for dynamic stability during movements in the spine.

How do you know if your low back pain is muscular?

Low back pain that is muscular is usually described as dull, achy, tight, and sore.

A certain movement like bending, twisting, lifting make the low back pain increase.

The pain does not radiate and stays around the low back.

What muscles cause low back pain?

The low back muscles that can cause low back pain include the Iliopsoas muscle, Erector Spinal Muscles, Quadrates Lumborum Muscles, Multifoods muscle, and tiny stabilizer paraspinal muscles that run up between the vertebrae.

Types of lower back pain symptoms

Localized lower back pain

This is lower back pain that stays in a specific part of the low back. Usually, localized lower back pain is from arthritis in the vertebrae, muscle spasms, inflammation in the lumbar discs, or tension. Localized lower back pain can worsen when sitting for too long or moving in certain positions. There is oftentimes muscular spasms involved as well.

Radiating pain

Radiating pain is usually described as a sharp shooting pain that radiates from the lower back down the leg. This condition is often referred to as lumbar radiculitis or sciatica. The pain may travel all the way down the leg into the knees and feet causing numbness and tingling or pain in the extremities.

Radiating pain is usually caused by a herniated disc in the lumbar spine, or spinal stenosis, a condition where the canals in the spine are narrowed. The radiating pain from sciatica will usually be on one side. Symptoms of lower back pain with sciatica are lower back pain on the right side with leg pain on the right side or lower back pain on the left side with leg pain on the left side.

Coughing, sneezing, or bending may irritate radiating pain. There may also be weakness or lack of sensation in the legs due to the compression taking place in the lumbar spine.

Referred pain

Referred pain is a type of pain when people have a condition in their lower back that's causing pain elsewhere in the body. In the lumbar spine, the most common area to feel referred to low back pain is around the anterior or posterior buttocks, thigh or hip. You will often feel low back pain on the right side above the buttocks or low back pain on the left side above the buttocks.

How can you tell if your low back pain is from your muscles or disc?

Low back pain that is coming from the lumbar disc often but not all the time will have associated pain that radiates down one or both legs.

The low back pain may stem from a fall or force to the spine that causes the lumbar disc to herniate. This is not always the case and the discs in the lower back can herniate and bulge without significant trauma.

It may be very difficult to determine if your back pain is coming from your muscles or an injured disc. The discs in the spine can cause muscle pain when there is an underlying injury, degeneration, or inflammation in the disc.

What is the fastest way to relieve low back pain?

  • Ice for the first 72 hours
  • Over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medications
  • Chiropractic care and physiotherapies like electrical muscle stimulation
  • Rest from certain activities like heavy lifting

Is walking good for low back pain?

Generally speaking, walking can have many benefits for low back pain. It's always a good idea to exercise and walking can help us maintain a healthy weight. Being overweight and be a strong contributing factor to developing chronic low back pain.

Unlike running which can be hard on the discs and vertebrae in the low back, walking is a low impact exercise.

Walking gets the joints and muscles moving which brings in circulation to the spine and brings down stiffness and tightness in the lower back.

When to See a Chiropractor for low back pain?

You should see a chiropractor for low back pain symptoms immediately if you have suffered a recent injury, have any low back pain with sciatica, radiating pain down your legs, feel like you have a pinched nerve in the hip and back, or the low back pain is affecting your work, sleep or activities of daily living like lifting your children or enjoying your life.

Your Chiropractor will be able to diagnose where your pain is coming from by performing a physical examination, taking a history of your condition, and ordering diagnostic studies like an x-ray, lab work, or MRI to pinpoint the cause of the lower back pain.

Once the pain in your lower back is properly diagnosed a treatment plan can be put together which may include spinal adjustments, physical therapies, medications, modifying activities, exercises, stretches, and other procedures such as spinal injections. In worst-case scenarios, surgical recommendations may be considered.

Very often chiropractic can provide a great deal of pain relief initially when there is a recent injury and helps with chronic back pain as well.

The takeaway

Lower back pain is a very common condition that affects around 80% of the population each year.

Lower back pain can be caused by a variety of conditions including muscles of the spine, the discs in the spine, arthritis, a pinched nerve in the back, and injuries.

Other more serious conditions such as an aneurysm, cancer, or infection always need to be ruled out when experiencing lower back pain.

If you have any additional questions about seeing a Chiropractor for back pain or chiropractic low back pain treatments please feel free to get in touch.

In health,

Dr. Jeffrey Gerdes, D.C.

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