What Causes Lower Back Pain
Many injuries, conditions and diseases can cause lower back pain. They include:
- Strains and sprains: Back strains and sprains are the most common cause of back pain. You can injure muscles, tendons or ligaments by lifting something too heavy or not lifting safely. Some people strain their back by sneezing, coughing, twisting or bending over.
- Fractures: The bones in the spine can break during an accident, like a car crash or a fall. Certain conditions increase the risk of fractures.
- Disk problems: Disks cushion the vertebrae . Disks can bulge from their position in the spine and press on a nerve. They can also tear . With age, disks can get flatter and offer less protection .
- Structural problems: A condition called spinal stenosis happens when the spinal column is too narrow for the spinal cord. Something pinching the spinal cord can cause severe sciatic nerve pain and lower back pain. Scoliosis can lead to pain, stiffness and difficulty moving.
- Arthritis: Osteoarthritis is the most common type of arthritis to cause lower back pain. Ankylosing spondylitis causes lower back pain, inflammation and stiffness in the spine.
- Disease:Spine tumors, infections and several types of cancer can cause back pain. Other conditions can cause back pain, too. These include kidney stones and abdominal aortic aneurysm.
- Spondylolisthesis: This condition causes the vertebrae in the spine to slip out of place. Spondylolisthesis leads to low back pain and often leg pain as well.
Seeking Help For Lower Back Pain
You may not need to seek help from a health professional for lower back pain. Most people find their lower back pain improves by itself within a few weeks. But if there’s no improvement after two to three weeks or the pain is getting worse, seek advice from a GP or physiotherapist. It’s also worth seeking help if your back pain is stopping you from doing normal activities, or if it goes on longer than six weeks.
Physiotherapists are often best placed to help with back pain. In some areas, you may be able to self-refer to a physiotherapist on the NHS, whereas in others you need a referral through your GP. You can also choose to pay for private physiotherapy.
There are some circumstances when you should always see a doctor straightaway for back pain though. These include if:
- you have numbness or tingling around your bottom or genitals
- you cant control your bladder or bowels
- youre unsteady when you walk, or your legs or feet feel weak, you have sudden, severe lower back pain
- youve been in a major accident, such as a traffic collision or fall
- you have osteoporosis
- theres a visible deformity in your back
- the pain continues when youre lying down or overnight, disturbing your sleep
- you have a history of cancer or have had a recent bacterial infection
- you also have a fever, chills or unexplained weight loss
These can be signs of more serious problems.
Stretch To Smooth A Spasm
Stretching a sore back will actually enhance the healing process. Its also helpful for preventing another flare-up, says Turk. He recommends the following stretch for lower-back pain: Lie on your back and gently bring your knees up to your chest. Once there, put a little pressure on your knees. Stretch, then relax. Repeat. You can also try gently stretching your body side to side and then forward and back. The most important thing is to take any stretching exercises slowly and gently, he adds.
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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
Urgent Advice: Ask For An Urgent Gp Appointment Or Get Help From 111 If:
You have back pain and:
- a high temperature
- you’ve lost weight without trying to
- there’s a lump or swelling in your back or your back has changed shape
- the pain does not improve after resting or is worse at night
- the pain is made worse when sneezing, coughing or pooing
- the pain is coming from the top of your back , rather than your lower back
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Medication From The Store
There are two kinds of over-the-counter pain relievers that frequently help with back pain: nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs and acetaminophen. Both have some side effects, and some people may not be able to take them. Talk to your doctor before taking pain relievers. And don’t expect medication alone to solve your pain problem. Studies show you’ll probably need more than one type of treatment.
Remedies To Relieve Lower Back Pain Fast
We all want to know the best way to relieve lower back pain fast. At best, backache can be frustrating, perhaps draining. At its worst, this kind of discomfort can be utterly debilitating. If you have ever awakened with a terrible backache, you may have also learned how quickly such an ailment can derail your day, your week, or even several months or years.
Fortunately, there are remedies to combat that ache. From exercising to getting better sleep to reducing your stress levels, you can choose from a variety of strategies. The next time you have a backache , consider the following methods of back pain relief. Remember to discuss at-home back pain remedies with your doctor before you make use of them.
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What Type Of Doctor Should I See For Back Pain
This depends on your condition or symptoms. If you have no obvious injury that would explain your pain, you may want to start by seeing a . This is a specialist in physical medicine who can diagnose back pain and determine whether nonsurgical treatments such as physical therapy may help. Depending on those findings, a physiatrist may also refer you to a , doctor or other type of back specialist, , for additional discussion.
Diagnosing Low Back Pain
Diagnosis is made by a neurosurgeon based on history, symptoms, physical examination and results of diagnostic studies. Some patients may be treated conservatively if conservative treatment is ineffective, the physician may order imaging studies of the lower back and other tests, which may include:
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Lower Back Pain Treatment Options
, according to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke . Discomfort in the lower back can be chronic or ongoing. It can also be a sudden and brief condition known as acute pain.
Causes of lower back pain include:
Treatment options for lower back pain range widely according to the cause of the condition. Read on to learn more.
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.
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Treatment Of Nonspecific Pain
Many treatments are available for acute low back pain, but strong evidence for their benefit is lacking. Based on the evidence, a reasonable approach to treatment is described in Table 4.
|Reassure the patient that the prognosis is often good, with most cases resolving with little intervention|
|Advise the patient to stay active, avoiding bed rest as much as possible, and to return to normal activities as soon as possible|
|Advise the patient to avoid twisting and bending|
|Initiate trial of a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug or acetaminophen|
|Consider a muscle relaxant based on pain severity|
|Consider a short course of opioid therapy if pain is severe|
|Consider referral for physical therapy if it is not the first episode|
|Consider changing to a different nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug|
|Consider referral for physical therapy if not done at initial visit|
|Consider referral to a spine subspecialist if pain is severe or limits function|
When Is Surgery A Good Idea For Back Pain
These red flags can be indicators for surgery, if theyre found to berelated to your spine condition:
- New or progressing bowel/bladder issues
- Weakness in limbs
- Gait and balance problems
- Evidence of increased reflexes
Surgery can also be an option for chronic back pain if there is a knowncause confirmed by imaging and if other treatments didnt help. Getopinions from at least two surgeons, suggests Nava, as pain can stillcome back after the surgery.
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Keep Moving Keep Stretching
Scared to get back to your exercise routine? It makes sense. After all, you want to be careful and avoid things thatâll make you feel worse. But did you know that your chronic back pain will improve if you get moving? Exercise keeps your muscles strong and prevents spasms.
Studies show that people who stay active despite low back pain are more flexible than those who play it safe and stay in bed for a week. Exercises that both strengthen and stretch your body help the most. In addition to walking, you might want to swim, ride a stationary bike, or try low-impact aerobics.
Also, research shows that yoga and stretching can ease pain and improve back movement. Scientists divided 228 people whoâd had moderate pain for at least 3 months into three groups. Two groups took a 75-minute yoga or stretching class once a week for 12 weeks. The third group got a book of exercises and lifestyle changes they could make to ease their discomfort.
After 3 months, those who did yoga or intensive stretching fared better than those who didnât. A full 6 months later, they took less medicine for their back pain. They also said their pain was better or completely gone during follow-up appointments.
While exercise is one of the best things you can do to relieve back pain, it shouldnât hurt or make your pain worse. If so, check in with your doctor or physical therapist to make sure youâre doing the right exercise for you.
Ways To Manage Low Back Pain At Home
Back pain is one of the most common physical ailments. Studies show that eight in 10 Americans have back pain at some point in their lives, usually in the lower back.
Sudden or severe back pain should be checked by a doctor or a physical therapist. That also goes for pain that wonât go away.
But sometimes you can treat nagging pain and discomfort on your own.
Wilson Ray, MD, chief of spine surgery for the Department of Neurological Surgery at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, says home remedies â tend to be better when they’re combined than alone.â
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How Is Lower Back Pain Diagnosed
Your provider will ask about your symptoms and do a physical exam. To check for broken bones or other damage, your provider may order imaging studies. These studies help your provider see clear pictures of your vertebrae, disks, muscles, ligaments and tendons.
Your provider may order:
- Spine X-ray, which uses radiation to produce images of bones.
- MRI, which uses a magnet and radio waves to create pictures of bones, muscles, tendons and other soft tissues.
- CT scan, which uses X-rays and a computer to create 3D images of bones and soft tissues.
Depending on the cause of pain, your provider may also order blood tests or urine tests. Blood tests can detect genetic markers for some conditions that cause back pain . Urine tests check for kidney stones, which cause pain in the flank .
Lower Back Pain Caused By Infection
Infections of the spine are not common, but they do occur. The doctor will ask about the usual signs and symptoms of infection, especially when back pain is accompanied by fever and/or chills. Dialysis patients, IV drug users, and patients who have recently had surgery, trauma, or skin infections are at risk for infections of the spine. Infections of the spine can be caused by a number of agents, most commonly bacteria. Doctors will first test for the presence of bacteria, then give antibiotics.
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How To Relieve Sudden Back Pain
Over 80% of people will get back pain at some time in their lives. Many people get Sudden back pain if they lift a heavy object with bad posture while gardening or at the gym. Sudden or acute back pain is defined as back pain that persists for up to 4 weeks. Back pain that lasts between to 4-12 weeks is called subacute back pain. And back pain that lasts longer than 12 weeks is called chronic back pain. Treatments for chronic back pain are discussed by clicking on this article: How to Treat Low Back Pain. The article on this page, however, will be discussing the latest medical evidence of the best treatments for suden low back pain, or back pain that has lasted less than 4 weeks. The good news is that sudden low back pain usually improves within 4 weeks.
- A cold pack for 2-3 days followed by a heating pad can help relieve sudden back pain.
- Massage, acupuncture, or chiropractic care are equally effective
- Non-steroidal Anti-inflammatory drugs such as ibuprofen or naproxen are effective unless you have medical reasons you cannot take them
- Do not stay in bed longer than 2-3 days as this may delay healing. Try walking slowly as soon as you are able.
How Long Does Sudden Low Back Pain Last?
NON-DRUG THERAPIES FOR SUDDEN BACK PAIN
Since medications can often cause side effects, we recommend non-drug therapies first for sudden back pain.
See the diagrams below for the proper sleeping positions when you have sudden back pain.
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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% Of People Will Experience Back Pain At Some Time But There Are Ways To Find Relief
As people enter middle age, they are more likely to experience bouts of low back pain. In fact, according to the Harvard Special Health Report Men’s Health: Fifty and Forward, back pain affects about four in five Americans at some point in their lives and equally strikes men and women.
Age is often the culprit. Over time, the bones and joints in your lower back begin to change. Your discs tend to wear out and sometimes become fragmented. These structural alterations sometimes cause pain.
Another cause of low back pain, although it occurs less often, is a herniated disc. Sometimes, a disc pushes outside the space between the bones and compresses a nerve at the point where it branches off the spinal cord. When the sciatic nerve that leads into the buttocks and leg is affected, the pain is called sciatica.
Yet, most cases of low back pain stem from strain or sprain due to simple overuse, unaccustomed activity, excessive lifting, or an accident. In most cases the best move is to wait and see if the pain resolves on its own. If the pain does not improve after three to four days, then it’s time to see a doctor.
However, depending on the source of your back pain and its severity, you might try a few home remedies for low back pain to help ease the pain until your back returns to normal. Here are several options to consider:
Complementary therapies. Several types of complementary therapy may be helpful for relief from low back pain. These include: