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Why Is My Back Hurting?

By Jesse Gatlin, Physical Therapist

The unfortunate truth is most people will suffer from low back pain at some point in their lives. Back pain is one of the most common reasons that cause people to go to a doctor or miss time at work. There are many possible causes of back pain, and choosing the correct course of treatment depends greatly on the source of the problem.

Here are some of the potential reasons why your back may be hurting:

• Muscle strain: The back contains several muscles that are susceptible to injury if overloaded from over-activity. This can be a result of recreational sports, working out, lifting something heavy, or a hard day of yard work.

Strains typically respond well to rest, stretching, and anti-inflammatory medications and can resolve in a few days’ time.

• Disk injury: Located between each of your vertebrae is a small donut-shaped disk which serves as a cushion for the spine. Sometimes the soft, jelly-like material in the center of the disk can push through the outer rings and press into a spinal nerve, causing pain in the low back and possibly pain, numbness and weakness in one or both legs.

In more serious cases, the disk can rupture completely. Bending, lifting and twisting movements and prolonged sitting typically aggravate pain from a disk injury.

• Degeneration: As a normal part of the aging process, lumber disks and the cartilage lining the spinal joints can begin to wear down, or degenerate. This causes a narrowing of the spaces around the spinal cord and the spinal nerves as they exit the spine.

This condition causes pain and stiffness in the low back and makes it difficult to tolerate standing or walking for long periods of time.

Both disk injuries and degeneration can benefit from a specialized exercise program to stretch and strengthen the spine. These are only a few of the many sources of low back pain. Consultation with a physician or physical therapist can help you pinpoint the proper course of treatment for your specific ailment.

Of course, the most effective treatment method of all is prevention through a healthy lifestyle. To reduce the risk of developing back problems, you can exercise regularly, practice good posture and lifting techniques, and maintain a healthy body weight.

Even if back pain or injury is unavoidable, these measures will lessen the impact that it can have on your life.