A study published in 2022 estimated that globally, there were 568.4 million cases of lower back pain (LBP) in 2019. That’s a massive increase from the prevalent case count back in 1990 when it was only 386 million.
Worse, many different types of lower back pain may also contribute to mental health woes. After all, back pain, in general, may increase one’s risk of stress, anxiety, or depression. It may even raise the likelihood of experiencing sleep deprivation or psychosis.
Fortunately, many cases of LBP are treatable, provided you seek help right away. That’s because the exact treatment depends on the specific type of lower back pain you might have.
To that end, we created this guide discussing the various types of LBP and their indications. So, read on to learn what they are, as your symptoms may already warrant professional help.
Mechanical Lower Back Pain
Mechanical lower back pain arises from the spine, discs, or joints. In addition, the soft tissues surrounding the lower spinal area may also cause this form of LBP.
In some cases, mechanical lower back pain is acute, lasting for less than six weeks. However, it can also be chronic, persisting for 12 weeks or longer. According to studies, 20% of patients with acute low back pain develop chronic LBP within a year.
An accident, such as a fall that makes you land on your back or buttocks can cause mechanical lower back pain. It may also result from an activity that sprains or strains your lower back muscles. Sitting in an awkward position for prolonged periods can also hurt your lower back.
The thing is, only a small percentage of mechanical back pain causes are identifiable. The rest have no immediate known causes or are non-specific.
For that reason, one of the vital questions to ask spine doctors is what’s causing your LBP. By knowing the potential culprit, you may be able to keep it from worsening. For instance, correcting a bad posture may be enough to ease the pain or prevent it from coming back.
Radicular Lower Back Pain
Radiculopathy refers to the symptoms resulting from pinched or damaged spinal nerve roots. If the affected nerves are those in the lower back, that’s lumbosacral radiculopathy.
Radicular lower back pain, in turn, is pain that arises from lumbosacral radiculopathy. It may affect only the lower back, but the unpleasant sensations may also travel to the buttocks. Some patients may even feel it down to their legs.
Radicular LBP has a distinctive sharp, electric, or burning-like sensation. Numbness or weakness may also accompany the pain.
One of the most common radicular lower back pain causes is lumbar disc herniation. You may have heard of this condition called a bulging disc, ruptured disc, or slipped disc. Either way, it occurs when too much pressure or stress on the spine injures a disc’s annulus or outer ring.
That protrusion from the injured disc may then push against nearby nerve roots. It may also irritate the nerves themselves. When that happens, lower back pain may follow.
Neurogenic is a term that means “to arise in the nervous system.” On the other hand, claudication refers to pain in the thighs, calves, or buttocks. So, neurogenic claudication is a painful feeling in the thigh, calf, or buttocks due to a nerve problem.
Unfortunately, neurogenic claudication can occur in the lower back, too. So, aside from pain, you may also feel cramping or tingling in the lower back and one or both legs, thighs, or buttocks. You may even experience heaviness or weakness in the legs.
One of the common causes of neurogenic claudication is lumbar spinal stenosis. It’s a condition wherein the spinal canal in the lower back area becomes narrow. That narrowing can place too much pressure on the spinal cord or the nerves, thus, resulting in pain.
Lumbar Myelopathic Pain
Myelopathic pain is pain caused by myelopathy. Myelopathy, in turn, is a spinal cord injury associated with severe compression. It can result from trauma, disc herniation, degenerative disease, or congenital stenosis.
Myelopathy can impact any section of the spine, including the lower back. If it’s the lower back affected, doctors refer to it as lumbar myelopathy.
Lumbar myelopathic pain can feel like neurogenic claudication arising from stenosis. However, it can occur without it or present itself alongside radicular pain.
Aside from lower back pain, lumbar myelopathy can also cause numbness or tingling. It may also lead to problems with fine motor skills, such as difficulty in walking. Moreover, it may cause loss of urinary or bowel control and balance issues.
Neuropathic pain is pain resulting from neuropathy, a condition affecting the nerves. It can occur in the spinal cord, but it can also arise from the peripheral nerves. There are hundreds of diseases linked with neuropathy, but diabetes is behind 30% of cases.
Neuropathic pain symptoms include excruciating pain or a pins-and-needles sensation. Hypersensitivity to a light touch, such as gently placing a hand on the lower back, may also occur.
Keep in mind that compressed nerves and diabetes are only two neuropathy causes. Neuropathic pain in the lower back or any other area may also arise due to alcoholism. It may also result from viral infections or even cancer.
For those reasons, it’s vital to see a nerve or spine doctor if you believe you have neuropathy. That way, they can develop an accurate diagnosis. From there, they can create a pain management and treatment plan tailored to your needs.
Get Help for These Different Types of Lower Back Pain
Note that the different types of lower back pain covered in this guide can be debilitating. So much so that 6% to 10% of US workers who had LBP ended up changing jobs, or worse, stopping work.
So, if you experience any of the symptoms listed above, please see a nerve or spine doctor ASAP. The sooner you do, the sooner you can find relief for your LBP.
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