Almost everyone will experience low back pain at some point in their lives. This pain can vary from mild to severe. It can be short-lived or long-lasting. However it happens, low back pain can make many everyday activities difficult to do.
Back pain is different from one person to the next. The pain can have a slow onset or come on suddenly. The pain may be intermittent or constant. In most cases, back pain resolves on its own within a few weeks.
There are many causes of low back pain. It sometimes occurs after a specific movement such as lifting or bending. Just getting older also plays a role in many back conditions.
As we age, our spines age with us. Aging causes degenerative changes in the spine. These changes can start in our 30s — or even younger — and can make us prone to back pain, especially if we overdo our activities.
These aging changes, however, do not keep most people from leading productive, and generally, pain-free lives. We have all seen the 70-year-old marathon runner who, without a doubt, has degenerative changes in her back!
One of the more common causes of low back pain is muscle soreness from over-activity. Muscles and ligament fibers can be overstretched or injured.
This is often brought about by that first softball or golf game of the season, or too much yard work or snow shoveling in one day. We are all familiar with this “stiffness” and soreness in the low back — and other areas of the body — that usually goes away within a few days.
Some people develop low back pain that does not go away within days. This may mean there is an injury to a disc.
Small tears to the outer part of the disc (annulus) sometimes occur with aging. Some people with disc tears have no pain at all. Others can have pain that lasts for weeks, months, or even longer. A small number of people may develop constant pain that lasts for years and is quite disabling. Why some people have pain and others do not is not well understood.
With age, intevertebral discs begin to wear away and shrink. In some cases, they may collapse completely and cause the facet joints in the vertebrae to rub against one another. Pain and stiffness result.
This “wear and tear” on the facet joints is referred to as osteoarthritis. It can lead to further back problems, including spinal stenosis.
(Spon-dee-low-lis-THEE-sis). Changes from aging and general wear and tear make it hard for your joints and ligaments to keep your spine in the proper position. The vertebrae move more than they should, and one vertebra can slide forward on top of another. If too much slippage occurs, the bones may begin to press on the spinal nerves.
Lumbar laminectomy is a surgical procedure most often performed to treat leg pain related to herniated discs, spinal stenosis, and other related conditions.
Stenosis occurs as people age and the ligaments of the spine thicken and harden, discs bulge, bones and joints enlarge, and bone spurs (called osteophytes) form.
Spondylolisthesis (the slipping of one vertebra onto another) can also lead to compression.
The goal of a laminectomy is to relieve pressure on the spinal cord or spinal nerve by widening the spinal canal.
This is done by removing or trimming the lamina (roof) of the vertebrae to create more space for the nerves. A surgeon may perform a laminectomy with or without fusing vertebrae or removing part of a disc.
Various devices (like screws or rods) may be used to enhance the ability to obtain a solid fusion and support unstable areas of the spine.