photo courtesy of www.basicspine.com

Chronic Low Back Pain
By AZOPT Physical Therapists

As we learned in the last blog, there are two types of low back pain (LBP) – acute and chronic. Acute back pain is sudden and can last from a few days to a few weeks. Chronic low back pain typically lasts longer than 3 months. For a review on acute back pain, click here. Let’s talk about chronic low back pain.

What is chronic low back pain?

Chronic low back pain is a pain that has been occurring for a longer period of time. Usually, a single event does not cause the pain in a chronic episode. The pain is more gradual and over an extended period of time. This build up can be caused by everyday activities such as lifting and twisting incorrectly for a long period of time.   Suddenly, while reaching for something or bending at the waist, pain occurs.  Chronic LBP does not resolve itself in 3 months, or it recurs over and over again.

Many people with chronic LBP have developed arthritis. Also, these individuals may have extra wear and tear of their spine due to:

  • Heavy activity from work or sports
  • Injuries or fractures
  • Surgery

Many people may have developed a herniated disc. This causes the disc to push onto nerves causing pain.   Decreased spinal movement can occur if these discs lose their integrity and shrink from drying out. This causes the space to be decreased thus causing decreased movement and pain in the low back.

Stenosis can occur when the space between the spinal nerves and the spinal cord is narrowed. This can cause numbness and tingling down into the legs. If this condition worsens, an individual may experience incontinence and lower extremity weakness.

Other causes of chronic LPB include:

  • Scoliosis (an abnormal curvature of the spine)
  • Other medical conditions such as Fibromyalgia and Rheumatoid Arthritis
  • A muscular disorder in the piriformis called Piriformis Syndrome

Individuals are at greater risk if they are:

  • Over the age of 30
  • Sedentary
  • Pregnant
  • Overweight
  • Stressed or depressed
  • Heavy lifting, bending and twisting in their work
  • Smokers

Symptoms of chronic LBP include

  • Dull ache
  • Sharp pain
  • Tingling or a burning sensation
  • Weakness in legs or feet

Low back pain is different for everyone. Pain can be mild or severe enough that you can’t move. Depending on the cause of the pain, you can experience pain into the hips, thighs and buttocks. If any of these symptoms occur, or you feel like you have chronic LBP, an AZOPT physical therapist can help manage the pain, decrease symptoms, and return the individual back to normal function. Please call us at 623.242.6908 to schedule an evaluation.