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Lower back pain, also known as lumbago, is a common problem often caused by overusing or misusing the muscles of the back. It affects about 80% of population at some point of their lives. Lower back pain occurs due to the overuse, muscle strain and injury to the muscles, ligaments and spine supporting discs. Muscular strain may lead to disproportion in the spine structure that further affects a steady tension in the muscles, ligaments, bones and discs.

Lumbago can sometimes result from a prior injury. For example, if one suffers an injury to the muscles, and he constantly feels pain while moving, he may start walking or moving the limbs in unusual ways to avoid pain.  That affects straining the other muscles that do not typically move that way. However, determination of the primary cause is generally made through a combination of a medical history, physical examination, and diagnostic testing - an x-ray for example.

Causes of lower back pain

Back pain can arise from various problems. For some of the patients it is possible to determine the accurate cause of lower back pain. Back pain most often occurs from some of these reasons:

  • Various injuries or damages of muscles, ligaments, facet joints and sacroiliac joints.
  • Compression of the nerve roots or the meninges covering the spinal cord usually presents with back or neck pain.
  • Osteoarthritis, characterized by joint pain, tenderness, stiffness, locking, and sometimes an effusion. This is a degenerative joint disease, involving degradation of joints, including articular cartilage and subchondral bone.
  • Spondylosis, degenerative osteoarthritis of the joints between the center of the spinal vertebrae and/or neural foraminae .
  • Spinal stenosis – a condition in which the spinal canal narrows and compresses the spinal cord and nerves.
  • Ruptures of the vertebrae – caused by large force, accidents, direct injuries or compression.
  • Spinal deformities – scoliosis, lordosis, kyphosis and other abnormal variations in size and shape of the spine.
  • Spinal tumors, neoplasm located in the spinal cord, can also cause pain causing nerve compression and weakening of the vertebral structure.
  • Paget's disease, a chronic disorder that normally results in enlarged and distorted bones.
  • Scheuermann's disease, a skeletal disorder where vertebrae grow unevenly causing curvature of the spine.

Rare causes of lower back pain

Some rare medical conditions may also cause lower back pain. These are usually the most serious health problems like Cauda equina syndrome, neurological disease, affects nerve roots that serve lower back and legs. Cauda equina syndrome manifests in a weakness of legs, numbness and loss of bowel and bladder control. Cancer in the spine is another rare cause of lower back pain. The pain in cancers occurs when a cancerous tissue makes an additional pressure on a nerve. Infection of the spine is also possible, but quite rare. Lower back pain may be caused by infection if it is accompanied with a fever and tender warm area.

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