What Causes Chronic Low Back Pain?
Chronic pain, longer than 6-8 weeks, emanating from the lower back can be a serious issue and a number of risk factors can contribute to a host of different problems. The cause of low back pain stems from either injury or degeneration.
Degeneration in the lower back is characterized by the breakdown of intervertebral discs (see photo above). When healthy, these discs have the consistency of a wet sponge and help provide shock absorption during movement. If over time the discs begin to disintegrate, the vertebrae will grind onto one another causing very serious discomfort. These discs naturally degrade as we age, but will do so more rapidly if you are carrying extra weight on your belly, have bad posture, use tobacco products, are inactive for long periods or have a job that requires heavy lifting or long term exposure to vibration.
Secondly, if due to an injury the spine contorts from its normal shape the intervertebral discs may press against the spinal cord and/or nearby nerves, often termed a herniated or bulging disc (see photo above). The most common of these nerves to be aggravated is the sciatic nerve (see photo below). The sciatic nerve wraps around the sacroiliac (SI) joint and travels all the way to the feet. If you’re experiencing low back, hip and leg pain than you may be suffering from sciatica, inflammation of the sciatic nerve caused by impingement or herniation.