The lower back or lumbar spine is made up of the 5 lowest unfused bones in the spinal column. The lumbar spine connects with the thoracic spine at the top and extends downward to the sacrum beneath.
The lower the vertebra is in the spinal column, the more weight it takes. The 5 vertebrae of the lumbar spine support the weight of the entire torso.
The lowest two spinal segments, L4-L5 and L5-S1 which include the vertebrae and discs, bear the most weight and are the most prone to degradation and injury. The lumbar spine meets the sacrum at the L5-S1 joint. This joint allows for considerable rotation, so that the pelvis and hips may swing when walking and running.
Common causes of lumbar spine pain
- Muscular problems – tightness from the hamstrings, hip flexors, quadratus lumborum or paraspinal can lead to increased tension on the lumbar spine and can lead to pain.
- Disc herniation/ bulges – Disc herniation’s or bulges are very common in the lumbar spine. It may happen suddenly due to the lifting of a heavy object, or slowly over time. Herniated discs can cause sharp pain with movement, pain with coughing or sneezing and at times cause leg pain due to associated nerve root irritation.
- Nerve root impingement – Herniated discs, facet joint arthritis or muscle tension can all lead to nerve root impingement. This is when a nerve gets trapped or squashed where it exits from the spinal cord. This will lead to an ache or pain in the leg, can also be associated with a sensation of pins and needles or numbness or weakness in the legs.
- Spondylolisthesis – This occurs when a vertebral body slips forward, this is not to be confused with a slipped disc which in fact rarely happens, discs will bulge and vertebral bodies can slip forward. This can be due to weakness of the core muscles holding the vertebrae in place or an anatomical abnormality. This can leg pain and associated nerve symptoms similar to above as well as localised lower back pain and a feeling of instability.
Lumbar spine pain can be due to numerous underlying factors, if you are having pain in your lower back or experience any of the symptoms above make an appointment to see our expert Physiotherapists who will assess and guide you in your recovery.