Causes of a Pinched Nerve in the Lower Back
Determining the causes of a pinched nerve in the lower back (lumbar region of the spine) can be difficult, as there are usually several contributing factors that have led to the occurrence. One of the main causes, however, is the natural process of spinal degeneration that takes place as we grow older.
The spinal components - vertebrae, facet joints, intervertebral discs, ligaments, and muscles - work together to provide support the body, but years of wear and tear can take its toll on these components. Discs become weak and may bulge or herniate; facet joints can become arthritic; a vertebra may slip out of place in relation to an adjacent vertebra. Any of these occurrences can lead to the compression of the spinal cord or a nerve root, which usually causes symptoms of radiating pain, numbness, weakness, and tingling to affect the extremities.
While the unavoidable process of aging is the most common cause of a pinched nerve in the lower back, there are a number of additional contributing factors that can lead to the development of the condition, including:
- Poor posture - Whenever you stand or sit with stooped shoulders and/or with the abdomen projecting outward, it means you are relaxing your muscles, which can force all the other spinal components to work harder to support the upper body. Over time, the added stress can cause a pinched nerve to develop.
- Repetitive movements - Occupational or recreational activities that require repetitive spinal movements (bending, lifting, twisting, and turning) can accelerate the degenerative process.
- Pregnancy - Many women experience pinched nerve pain while they are pregnant, as the added weight of the fetus places undue stress on the lower back.
- Injury - Minor bumps and jolts over a lifetime, as well as sudden, traumatic injuries can compromise the stability and strength of the spinal components.
After a doctor diagnoses a patient with lumber nerve compression, he or she typically suggests a course of conservative, nonsurgical treatments. Some of these methods might include physical therapy, hot/cold therapy, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), opioid pain medication, and nerve root blocks, among others. Surgery is rarely necessary to treat a lumbar pinched nerve.