About Lower Back Injuries
Lower back pain is very common. More than 80 percent of adults have lower back pain at some time. It can range from mild aching to severe pain that spreads (radiates) down one or both legs.
Lower back pain has many different causes. A sports medicine specialist can help find the cause and treat the problem.
See a doctor right away if you have back pain and any of the following:
- Bowel or bladder problems – Such as having accidents or not being able to use the bathroom normally.
- Numbness in the lower back or groin
- Leg weakness or problems holding your foot up
- Fever, chills or both
- Weight loss – When you are not trying to lose weight
Also, see a doctor if your lower back pain keeps you from standing, sitting or getting dressed normally.
About the Back
The back is made up of many different parts. The spinal cord is a thick bundle of nerves that runs from the brain to the tailbone. Many other nerves run from the spinal cord to the rest of the body.
The bones around the spinal cord are called vertebrae. They sit on top of each other in a tall stack. Small joints called facet joints connect the vertebrae. Round cushions of tissue called spinal discs sit between the vertebrae and act as shock absorbers for the spine. Muscles and ligaments surround the spine and connect the back with other parts of the body.
Trauma-Related Lower Back Pain
Sports injuries and other accidents, such as car accidents or falls, can injure the lower back. Common causes of trauma-related lower back pain include:
Also called a slipped or ruptured disc, this injury happens when one of the spinal discs is damaged. Each disc has a tough outer covering and a soft jelly-like center. If a disc is damaged enough to break the outer covering, the jelly-like material can leak out. The disc can also bulge out of its usual place. Both these things can irritate nerves in the area, causing back pain and leg numbness or weakness.
Muscle sprain or muscle spasm
Muscles can be overstretched or strained during an injury. The area might feel sore and stiffen up when you are less active.
This is a serious injury. Some back fractures can damage the spinal cord permanently. Do not move a person who is hurt in a game or accident and cannot get up. Call 911 and wait for paramedics. They can make sure the spine is stable before moving the person.
Common Lower Back Problems
Common lower back problems include:
This condition happens when a nerve that runs from the spine to the leg is pinched. It can be an aching, burning or stabbing pain that goes partway down the leg or all the way to the toes. Sitting might be painful, and you might have numbness, tingling or weakness that spreads down the leg. Some people with sciatica lose the ability to control the bladder or bowels. If this happens, get to the doctor right away.
Degenerative disc disease
Degenerative disc disease is the medical name for normal changes in the discs that happen with aging. With time, the spinal discs become worn. The tough outer coverings can crack or tear, and discs shrink and provide less cushioning for the spine. Bony bumps, called bone spurs, can form on vertebrae. These changes cause back pain in some people, but not all. In fact, some people have a lot of degenerative disc disease without any symptoms.
Spinal stenosis is when the space around the spinal cord gets narrower, pinching the spinal nerves. Arthritis is the most common cause. Symptoms include numbness, tingling or weakness in the legs or buttocks. This can cause balance problems. One foot might also flop towards the ground when you walk. Pain might get worse with standing and walking, but get better with sitting or leaning forward.
There is a different type of spinal stenosis that some people are born with. A sports medicine specialist can help you find the cause of spinal stenosis and other types of back pain.
Scoliosis is the medical term for a curved spine. The spine normally curves slightly from front to back (this is why the lower back curves inward). But people with scoliosis have a side-to-side curve. This condition starts in childhood or the teen years. It is not usually painful unless it is severe, but parents might notice that a child has one hip or shoulder higher than the other. If a child who plays sports develops back pain, a sports medicine specialist can check for scoliosis and other problems.
Repeated force can break a bone over time, causing a stress fracture. Stress fractures are common in sports. Stress fractures of the lower back are especially common in teens who have not finished growing. The main symptom is an ache in the lower back, especially when bending backward. Sports that put a lot of stress on the lower back, including gymnastics, dance, diving, weight lifting and football, can increase the risk of lower back stress fractures.
Lower Back Pain that Causes Numbness and Weakness
Problems in the lower back can cause weakness, numbness or tingling in the legs and feet. This is usually caused by something pinching or pressing on a nerve. Weakness can include trouble holding your foot up when you walk (the foot flops toward the ground) or loss of bladder or bowel control. If you have back pain with weakness, numbness or tingling, see a doctor. It could be a sign of a serious condition.
Lower Back Pain that Spreads to the Legs and Feet
Lower back pain can spread to the legs and feet. This can be an aching, stabbing or burning pain. It can be a sign of several different conditions.
See a doctor if you have lower back pain that spreads to your legs or feet.
Get Care for Lower Back Injuries
Do you have lower back pain? Wondering if it might be serious? Call Hanover Sports Medicine at 804-559-7463 or, Request an Appointment Online. We offer care after regular business hours,Ortho After Hours