When Should I See My Healthcare Provider About Lower Back Pain
Lower back pain usually gets better with rest and pain relievers. Back pain that doesnt go away may be a sign of a more serious condition.
See your provider if you have:
- Pain that doesnt get better after about a week of at-home care.
- Tingling, numbness, weakness or pain in your buttocks or legs.
- Severe pain or muscle spasms that interfere with your normal activities.
- Fever, weight loss, bowel or bladder problems or other unexplained symptoms.
A note from Cleveland Clinic
Millions of people live with low back pain. Stiffness, pain and limited movement can have a major impact on quality of life. But you may be able to avoid lower back pain by maintaining a healthy weight and staying active. Talk to your provider if back pain doesnt go away or if youre unable to do the activities you enjoy. Several treatments can relieve pain, help you move better and get more out of life.
Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 01/18/2021.
Emotional Effects Of Lower Back Pain
Back pain affects everyone differently. In some situations, back pain can be become chronic, which means it lasts a long time. Some emotional factors may increase the risk of back pain becoming chronic, including:
- believing that physical activity isn’t helpful or having lots of bed rest
- emotional problems such as feeling depressed, anxious or stressed
- a lack of social support from family and friends
- not wanting to play an active role in your treatment
Although you may think your pain is a warning sign to stop you doing certain activities, its important that you keep active to overcome it. If you have any questions about keeping active, talk to your physiotherapist or doctor. They can reassure you that keeping mobile and being positive about managing your back pain are the keys to helping you recover. Exercise will also help to prevent back pain in future.
Injections And Other Procedures
Depending on the source of your pain for example, if you have sciatica epidural injections may be helpful. Injections in the spine arent recommended for non-specific lower back pain though. If your back pain is chronic and other treatments havent helped, there is a procedure called radiofrequency denervation that uses a needle to treat the pain. This is only suitable for some people and you may need to have other tests beforehand. Speak to your specialist for advice.
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Diagnosis Of Lower Back Pain
Your physiotherapist or GP will usually be able to diagnose lower back pain from your symptoms and by examining you. A physiotherapist is a healthcare professional who specialises in maintaining and improving movement and mobility. You may want to go straight to see a physiotherapist if a self-refer service is available in your area. If its not, you can see your GP who can advise and refer you.
Usually further tests wont help. But if you have other symptoms, your GP may recommend tests including:
Degenerative Disc Disease Treatment For Low Back Pain
Most people with degenerative disc disease respond well to nonsurgical treatments.
- Research indicates that 90% of patients report improvement in back pain and radicular leg pain within 3 months of nonsurgical treatments.1
- Surgical intervention may be extensive, so most people are well-served making a concerted effort with nonsurgical treatment regimens.
The long-term outlook for this condition is usually favorable, especially when coupled with lifestyle modifications and the correct use of ergonomics.1
This article describes the various treatments available to manage the symptoms of degenerative disc disease, including addressing both painful flare-ups as well as longer-term pain management and rehabilitation.
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Back Exercises And Stretches
Simple back exercises and stretches can often help reduce back pain. These can be done at home as often as you need to.
For information about exercises and stretches that can help, see:
A GP may be able to provide information about back exercises if you’re unsure what to try, or you may want to consider seeing a physiotherapist for advice. Read about how to get access to physiotherapy.
What Can Cause Lower Back Pain
Most acute low back pain is mechanical in nature, meaning that there is a disruption in the way the components of the back fit together and move. Some examples of mechanical causes of low back pain include:
- Skeletal irregularities such as scoliosis , lordosis , kyphosis , and other congenital anomalies of the spine.
- Spina bifida which involves the incomplete development of the spinal cord and/or its protective covering and can cause problems involving malformation of vertebrae and abnormal sensations and even paralysis.
- Sprains , strains , and spasms
- Traumatic Injury such as from playing sports, car accidents, or a fall that can injure tendons, ligaments, or muscle causing the pain, as well as compress the spine and cause discs to rupture or herniate.
- Intervertebral disc degeneration which occurs when the usually rubbery discs wear down as a normal process of aging and lose their cushioning ability.
- Spondylosis the general degeneration of the spine associated with normal wear and tear that occurs in the joints, discs, and bones of the spine as people get older.
- Arthritis or other inflammatory disease in the spine, including osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis as well as spondylitis, an inflammation of the vertebrae.
Nerve and spinal cord problems
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Tips To Strengthen Your Back
Flexion and extension exercises are commonly used to prevent low back pain. Be sure to review with the doctor any program you are considering.
Easy Low Back Exercises
- Ankle Pumps: Lie on your back and move ankles up and down.
- Heel Slides: Lie on your back and bend then straighten the knees one at a time.
- Wall Squats: With your back flat against a wall, sit like you would in a chair with your knees lined up over your ankles. Gently press against the wall, keeping your abdominal muscles tight. Hold for five seconds.
- Single Knee to Chest Stretch: Lying down with back flat, pull your knee into the chest.
The 7 Best Natural Cures For Inflammation In The Lower Back
No matter the cause of your lower back pain the pain you experience is caused by one thing:
How to know whats causing your inflammation in the lower back? How to eliminate the pain without depending on pain killers for life?
In this detailed guide, youll find all the answers: the common causes, the ultimate natural cures and how to avoid low back inflammation from coming back ever again.
First, lets start with lower back inflammation symptoms, and how they differ from mechanical lumbar pain:
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What Are The Risk Factors For Developing Low Back Pain
Anyone can have back pain. Factors that can increase the risk for low back pain include:
Age: The first attack of low back pain typically occurs between the ages of 30 and 50, and back pain becomes more common with advancing age. Loss of bone strength from osteoporosis can lead to fractures, and at the same time, muscle elasticity and tone decrease. The intervertebral discs begin to lose fluid and flexibility with age, which decreases their ability to cushion the vertebrae. The risk of spinal stenosis also increases with age.
Fitness level: Back pain is more common among people who are not physically fit. Weak back and abdominal muscles may not properly support the spine. Weekend warriorspeople who go out and exercise a lot after being inactive all weekare more likely to suffer painful back injuries than people who make moderate physical activity a daily habit. Studies show that low-impact aerobic exercise can help maintain the integrity of intervertebral discs.
Weight gain: Being overweight, obese, or quickly gaining significant amounts of weight can put stress on the back and lead to low back pain.
Genetics: Some causes of back pain, such as ankylosing spondylitis , have a genetic component.
Smoking: It can restrict blood flow and oxygen to the discs, causing them to degenerate faster.
Backpack overload in children: A backpack overloaded with schoolbooks and supplies can strain the back and cause muscle fatigue.
Press Up With Hips Off Center
The press ups with hips of center is simply a press up with your hips moved to one side or the other. To do this, prop onto your elbows and shift your hips to one side. Most often, people benefit from moving their hips away from the painful side.
Once your hips are off to one side, perform a press up. You may notice that you are not able to press up as far as you did with the regular press up, but still, try to press up as far as possible. Perform 10 repetitions of the press up with your hips off center, and monitor your pain for centralization. If your symptoms persist, you may need to take the next step in the progression: lumbar side glide in standing.
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What Can I Do For Low Back Pain At Home
If your lower back pain has just started, the best thing you can do is start a log. Record your symptoms, times, dates and which activities trigger the pain or make it worse or better. Take this information to your family physician if the pain doesnt resolve on its own. It will make diagnosing the cause much easier.
Once you know which motion or position causes your lower back pain, try to avoid it and see if you get better. Icing the painful spot can also help. And so can over-the-counter pain relievers that help reduce inflammation. Just remember that pain killers treat only the symptom pain and not its cause.
Stop Your Activity And Find Immediate Rest
This may already make sense, but many of us prefer to keep moving. Some professionals actually recommend that you stay in motion, but if you are the unfortunate one to have a disc or nerve problem, then that is poor advice. You may end up visiting them for that instead.
Dont try to actively work or move until you know the source of the injury.
A very common reaction is to keep moving but MAY be dangerous. Although this might feel helpful, it is important to determine whether your pain is more than just muscular in nature.
Why you should NOT move:
Moving when you have any of these injuries can cause further injury, intensifying the pain.
If you have a history of ANY of these injuries or suspect that your lifestyle may contribute to it , then rest is a better than simply muscling through it with medication.
Lastly with this first tip, you should know that you should also apply this caution to not just your back but also to your hips, knees and neck.
Forcing yourself to move when these areas are injured can be very risky. Make sure that you arent adding to the pain. The wrong movement can set you behind.
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What Should I Know About Back Pain
Back pain is a very common problem and will affect many of us at some point during our lives.
The good news is that in most cases it isnt a serious problem, and it might just be caused by a simple strain to a muscle or ligament.
As far as possible, its best to continue with your normal everyday activities as soon as you can and to keep moving.
Being active and exercising wont make your back pain worse, even if you have a bit of pain and discomfort at first. Staying active will help you get better. Taking painkillers can help you do this.
Inhale Slowly And Deeply For A Count Of 5 Seconds Pause 1 Second And Exhale 3
Visualization will help by imagining a tight knot being unraveled as you inhale. Picture the muscles extending as you inhale to stretch your rib cage fully.
As the muscles are contracting intensely, they are also over contracting, making it counter-productive.
Since you have already stopped moving, you are now trying to shut off the muscles need also to do this. Breathing deeply is key to relaxing a muscle which is becoming progressively shorter and more painful.
As you try to relax, avoid any movements that allow the muscle to shorten
Because of the intensity, duration and source of the injury, it is natural to react and to contract your body further. Even unwillingly.
To avoid this, focus on slowly inhaling while at the same time minimizing your movements. When in contraction, the reduced circulation and the build up of lactic acid makes you feel much worse.
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Iii Apply A Cold Pack
For the first 48-72 hours, carefully apply a cold pack to the area to reduce any inflammation present. Protect the skin from any risk of ice burn with a thin towel before applying the pack. Apply for 20 minutes and use every 1-2 hours as needed.
Caution:Not everyone benefits from a cold pack. If you find applying cold only numbs your pain while you are still stiff, then either reduce the length of time you apply it, or avoid cold treatment. Some people are more likely to feel even stiffer with cold treatment. The goal is to relax the muscle, not shock it.
I recommend that you go with what works for you. Personally, I prefer heat instead, but everyone has their own preferences.
Types Of Lower Back Pain
There are two primary types of lower back pain: acute and chronic.
- Acute lower back pain is short-term, lasting for just a few days up to a few weeks. It is often connected to an identifiable event or injury. When acute back pain fades, there is no ongoing effect on mobility.
- Chronic lower back pain goes on for three months or longer. In many cases, it occurs without a clear link to an initial injury.
Lower back pain that starts as acute may become chronic. It is estimated that around 20% of cases of acute low back pain persist and become chronic.
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What Can I Do If I Have Acute Low Back Pain
The following advice will benefit a majority of people with back pain. If any of the following guidelines causes an increase of pain or spreading of pain to the legs, do not continue the activity and seek the advice of a physician or physical therapist.
The key to recovering from acute low back pain is maintaining the normal curve of the spine . Supporting the hollow of your back will help decrease your recovery time.
Follow these guidelines for 10 to 20 days after you experience acute low back pain:
- Sit as little as possible, and only for short periods of time .
- Sit with a back support at the curve of your back.
- Keep your hips and knees at a right angle. Your legs should not be crossed and your feet should be flat on the floor.
Here’s how to find a good sitting position when you’re not using a back support or lumbar roll:
Correct sitting position without lumbar support.
Correct sitting position with lumbar support.
- Use a back support at the curve of your back. Your knees should be at the same level or higher than your hips.
- Move the seat close to the steering wheel to support the curve of your back. The seat should be close enough to allow your knees to bend and your feet to reach the pedals.
Stooping, squatting, and kneeling
Sleeping and lying down
Other helpful tips
If you sleep on your back, put pillows under your knees and a small pillow under the small of your back.
What Are The Symptoms Of Lower Back Pain
Symptoms of lower back pain can come on suddenly or appear gradually. Sometimes, pain occurs after a specific event, such as bending to pick something up. Other times, you may not know what caused the pain.
Pain may be sharp or dull and achy, and it may radiate to your bottom or down the back of your legs . If you strain your back during an activity, you may hear a pop when it happened. Pain is often worse in certain positions and gets better when you lie down.
Other symptoms of lower back pain include:
- Stiffness: It may be tough to move or straighten your back. Getting up from a seated position may take a while, and you might feel like you need to walk or stretch to loosen up. You may notice decreased range of motion.
- Posture problems: Many people with back pain find it hard to stand up straight. You may stand crooked or bent, with your torso off to the side rather than aligned with your spine. Your lower back may look flat instead of curved.
- Muscle spasms: After a strain, muscles in the lower back can spasm or contract uncontrollably. Muscle spasms can cause extreme pain and make it difficult or impossible to stand, walk or move.
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Will Bed Rest Help Back Pain
Doctors often recommend continuing your usual activities of daily living as soon as possible. Studies suggest that strict bedrest can often prolong or worsen low back pain. Bed rest can also lead to secondary complications such as depression, decreased muscle tone, and blood clots in the legs. You should try and keep moving while avoiding activities that noticeably aggravate or worsen back pain. By staying active, those who suffer from low back pain can gain greater flexibility and quicker recovery.