Low back pain is one of the most common medical problems for people of all ages, and it’s a leading cause of missed work and doctor’s visits worldwide. Low back pain stems from the lumbar spine, which is made up of five vertebrae (L1-L5) at the bottom of the spinal column. 


The lumbar spine manages high levels of stress and loads from our daily movements. This region of the spine distributes weight from the upper body to the legs, supports and stabilizes the upper body, and enables front-to-back, side-to-side and twisting movements of the trunk. While these functions allow us to work and move with ease, they also leave the low back structures vulnerable to wear and tear, stress, and injuries. 


Keep reading to learn five common lumbar spine conditions and what causes them. 

1. Lumbar Herniated Disc

The lumbar spine is the most common place for herniated discs to develop. Intervertebral spinal discs that sit between vertebrae are made up of a tough outer ring of ligaments (called the annulus fibrosus) and a soft, gel-like inner core (called the nucleus pulposus). Disc herniation occurs when the gel-like material pushes out of a tear in the annulus fibrosus.  


Many herniated discs develop slowly due to age-related wear and tear that causes discs to become drier, weaker and develop small cracks and tears. Some disc herniations occur suddenly from a fall, car accident, sports accident, or heavy lifting incident. 


When a disc herniates, the gel-like material that leaks into the spinal canal can irritate or compress the sciatic nerve in the lumbar spine. Sciatica describes a type of nerve pain that causes one-sided burning or electric pain, weakness, numbness and tingling in the low back, buttock, leg and foot. 


If a herniated disc isn’t pressing on a spinal nerve, you may only experience some low back pain or no symptoms at all.  

2. Lumbar Spinal Stenosis

Spinal stenosis is a medical condition that occurs when the spaces within the spinal canal narrow. It commonly develops in the lumbar spine. While some people are born with a narrow spinal canal, most cases of stenosis develop as a result of age-related degenerative changes. Osteoarthritis, bone spur formation, bulging or herniated discs, and thickened ligaments lead to a gradual narrowing of open spaces in the spine.


Narrowing of the spinal canal often leads to compression of the spinal cord or the nerve roots exiting the spine. Sciatica is a common side effect of spinal stenosis, characterized by one-sided pain, weakness, numbness and tingling that radiates down the leg. Low back pain, leg cramping, and pain that worsens during long periods of standing or walking are also common symptoms of lumbar stenosis.     

3. Lumbar Degenerative Disc Disease

Intervertebral spinal discs naturally begin to degenerate with age. General wear and tear over time causes discs to dehydrate, stiffen, tear, and lose height. When degeneration leads to pain and other symptoms, it’s diagnosed as degenerative disc disease (DDD).


Some people with DDD experience discogenic pain. Discogenic pain refers to pain that stems from the damaged disc. This type of back pain is localized and doesn’t radiate to the arms or legs. It usually worsens with activities that place pressure on the spinal discs, like walking, standing, and bending forward.  


If a degenerated disc collapses, bulges or herniates, it can compress nearby spinal nerves in the low back. In these cases, symptoms like leg and foot pain, weakness and numbness might accompany low back pain.

4. Arthritis

Osteoarthritis and ankylosing spondylitis are the two most common forms of arthritis that affect the lumbar spine.


  • Osteoarthritis (OA). OA is a degenerative disease that develops when the cartilage covering facet joints in the spine wears away. Cartilage erosion exposes the joint to painful bone-on-bone friction, leading to joint pain, swelling, inflammation, and bone spur development. Common symptoms of lumbar OA include back pain, stiffness and loss of movement. If a bone spur presses against a spinal nerve, sciatica symptoms can occur.


  • Ankylosing spondylitis (AS). AS is an inflammatory disease that primarily affects the facet joints and sacroiliac joints in the spine. The disease causes joint inflammation, pain, stiffness and difficulty moving. It’s a systemic disease that can also cause pain and symptoms in other areas of the body.   

5. Sprains and Strains

Soft tissue sprains and strains are the most common cause of low back pain. The muscles, tendons and ligaments that support the spine can overstretch, tighten or tear due to sports injuries, car accidents, falls, heavy lifting, twisting while lifting, poor posture, weak muscles from a sedentary lifestyle, and improper lifting techniques. 


Common symptoms of soft tissue injuries include low back pain, tightness and tension, a decrease in back mobility, and muscle spasms.  

Call BEST Surgery and Therapies for Low Back Pain and Injuries

BEST provides a single-solution experience for minimally invasive orthopedic care and treatment, pain management and minimally invasive spine surgery. Our unique care model integrates all services and treatments our patients need, including imaging, personalized treatment plans, innovative pain management procedures, physical therapy, and surgery. 


We have a quick-reply scheduling service that allows rapid patient access to our modern healthcare facility in Cincinnati, OH. Please call us to speak with a dedicated Patient Experience Coordinator and schedule your first appointment.Lumbar-Spine

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