Lower Back Pain

Orthopedic Institute of Santa Barbara -  - Orthopedic Surgeon

Orthopedic Institute of Santa Barbara

Orthopedic Surgeons & Sports Medicine located in Santa Barbara, CA & Solvang, CA

Nearly 80% of adults experience lower back pain at some point in their lives. Lower back pain can range from mild and tolerable to sudden, severe, and debilitating. If you experience lower back pain, the orthopedic specialists at the Orthopedic Institute of Santa Barbara in Santa Barbara, California, can help relieve your symptoms and get you back to your normal routine. Led by William R. Gallivan, MD, the team specializes in high-quality, individualized orthopedic treatment. To speak with Dr. Gallivan about your condition, book an appointment by phone or online today.

Lower Back Pain

What causes lower back pain?

Lower back pain is a leading cause of missed work days and job-related disability. Lower back pain can be caused by a number of underlying conditions that affect the joints, discs, nerves, and bones. Lower back pain is commonly caused by:

Sprains or Strains

Sprains occur when the ligaments are overstretched and torn. Strains are tears in the muscles and tendons. Both account for most cases of acute lower back pain. Sprains and strains can be caused by twisting, heavy lifting, and improper posture. 


Osteoarthritis is the most common type of arthritis. Osteoarthritis occurs when the cartilage that cushions the bones begins to gradually wear down. If you have lumbar osteoarthritis, the joints in your lower back become inflamed, causing pain and stiffness. 


The sciatic nerve is a major nerve that travels from the buttocks to the lower leg. If the sciatic nerve becomes compressed or pinched, it can cause lower back pain, numbness, and weakness in the legs.

What are the risk factors for lower back pain?

In addition to conditions like osteoarthritis and sciatica, certain factors can increase your risk for lower back pain. They include:

Weight gain

Obesity or sudden weight gain puts additional pressure on the back and lower extremities. This can increase your risk for conditions like sciatica and osteoarthritis, as the nerves and joints are put under more stress. 


As we age, our bones become less resilient and can withstand much less stress and force. Our muscles also lose tone and flexibility with age. This leaves you vulnerable to fractures, sprains, and strains that can cause lower back pain. Your risk for osteoporosis, a condition that gradually weakens the bones, also increases with age. 


A lack of physical activity can lead to a weak back and abdominal muscles. This can increase your risk for back injuries, due to reduced support of your spine.  

How is lower back pain treated?

Treatment for lower back pain depends on the cause of your condition. To begin, your doctor performs a physical exam to evaluate your ability to sit, stand, walk, and move your legs. 

Your doctor discusses your pain level while performing these activities to help determine the source of your pain. In addition to a physical exam, your doctor may also perform an X-Ray, MRI, or CT scan.

Once your condition is diagnosed, there are several options for treating your back pain. They include:

  • Over-the-counter pain relievers
  • Muscle relaxants
  • Platelet-rich plasma (PRP) injections
  • Physical therapy
  • Corticosteroid injections
  • Minimally invasive surgery

You and your doctor discuss your condition to determine the best treatment for you. The Orthopedic Institute of Santa Barbara specializes in individualized treatment plans catered to the specific needs of each patient. 

To speak with an orthopedic specialist about your lower back pain, book an appointment by phone or online today.