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.
What Are The Symptoms Of Sciatica
This pain often feels like it begins in the lower back, but it quickly travels down into the buttock and shoots down the back of your leg. Sometimes it might even reach all the way into the foot and toes.
Its an intense shooting, searing type of pain. Some sufferers of sciatica have even described it as an electric kind of pain. Others say its more of a dull ache. Sometimes it can be accompanied by a tingling or numbness in the surrounding areas. In other words, sciatic pain has some unifying characteristics, but it tends to look slightly different in everyone.
Despite whats commonly believed, sciatic pain is typically not the strongest in the lower back. Instead, the pain tends to be more heavily focused in the back of the leg. In addition to the pain, some sciatica patients may find it difficult to straighten their legs all the way
Low Back Pain Diagnoses You Dont Want To Miss
Only the common cold prompts more people to see a practitioner than acute low back pain. Most people will suffer with low back pain at least once in their lives, and it is estimated that 2% to 3% of all ED visits are for acute non-traumatic back pain. With costs exceeding $90 billion per year, the far-reaching implications are clear. Acute low back pain affects men and women of all ages it is a common cause of disability in those less than 45 years of age due to work-related injury. Patients experience pain and lost wages employers are impacted by loss of productivity in the workplace and there is a major financial burden to society in general.
Although most acute back pain is mechanical and self-limited or appears to be an exacerbation of a previous back condition, the failure to recognize other potentially serious conditions may result in severe and permanent patient disability and sometimes death. Practitioners should be aware of key risk issues in order to improve patient care and reduce the incidence of medical errors, patient injury, and related litigation.
A careful approach to the history and physical examination with a sound medical decision-making process can help mitigate the risk of overlooking less common but serious causes of back pain such as cauda equina syndrome, occult infection, fracture, malignancy, or non-spine causes of back pain.
- Pelvic: Prostate, urinary, gynecologic
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If I Dont Have Sciatica What Do I Have
One of the reasons that it can be difficult to tell if a person is truly experiencing sciatica is that many other types of pain can mimic sciatica. As someone trying to self-diagnose, you may find it difficult to tell if your pain is truly sciatic in nature or if its simply lower back pain.
Here are some of the most common problems that can cause sciatica-like symptoms.
Diagnosis Of Lumbar Back Pain
A complete diagnosis of lower back pain is an extremely important step in resolving pain and symptoms caused by conditions in the lumbar spine segment. It is great to get an idea of what may be causing your pain by reading about conditions that may be causing your symptoms, but self-diagnosis should never be your only course of action as this may be quite harmful. A complete diagnosis from a medical professional should be performed before you attempt more complex treatment for what may be ailing you.
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Additional Details: Degenerative Disc Disease
Back Pain Lasting For Months
If you have had back pain for months, a dull, permanent pain, you dont know exactly where it is located And if you are over 40 years old, if you have a lifestyle or a job that requires you to work hard , you may be suffering from degenerative disc disease: DDD is one of the most common causes of back pain. A trauma to one or more intervertebral discs that causes back pain that is bearable in terms of intensity, even if painful and permanent.
You should have already seen a doctor a long time ago: I dont want to push you to consult a doctor, but the best way to treat back pain is to know its origin, and this is done through medicine.
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Back Pain Quiz #: Are You Able To Walk On Your Heels And / Or On Your Toes
If the answer is no, the diagnosis will be herniated disc, which leads to sciatica, responsible for pain in the lower back but also in the leg, the heel and up to the tip of the toes.
This is not a medical back pain diagnosis
But if youre looking to diagnose your back pain online, this is a pretty close.For a precise medical diagnosis, you should see a doctor.
Herniated Disk In The Lower Back
The backbone, or spine, is made up of 26 bones called vertebrae. In between the bones are soft disks filled with a jelly-like substance. These disks cushion the vertebrae and keep them in place. Although people talk about a slipped disk, nothing actually slips out of place. The outer shell of the disk ruptures, and the jelly-like substance bulges out. It may be pressing on a nerve, which is what causes the pain.A slipped disk is more likely to happen due to strain on the back, such as during heavy lifting, and older individuals are at higher risk.
Top Symptoms: lower back pain, moderate back pain, back pain that shoots down the leg, back pain that gets worse when sitting, leg weakness
Urgency: Primary care doctor
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Prevention Of Lower Back Pain
If you know how to look after your back, you can greatly reduce your risk of getting back pain. It can help to do the following.
- Exercise regularly walking, swimming or using an exercise bike are all things you can do even if your back feels a bit sore. Take time to build up your fitness if youre trying new activities.
- Use your legs to lift objects by bending your knees and hips, not your back.
- Keep a good posture if you work at a desk, make sure your chair, desk and computer screen are set up correctly. It will help if your employer assesses your work station.
- Move regularly dont sit in the same position for long periods of time.
The Details: But Wait Lower Back Pain Gets More Complicated
Not only is chronic back pain hard to live with, it can also be difficult for practitioners to diagnose due to the overlap of symptoms with other conditions. Traditional diagnostic methods usually begin with a full physical exam and overview of your medical history.
From there, depending on the severity and duration of the pain, your doctor may request blood work to look for signs of inflammation or infection imaging studies such as X-rays, CT scans, or MRIs to look for structural damage or bone or DEXA scans to check for any bone disorders or bone infections and electrodiagnostics to check nerve function with electromyography or nerve conduction studies.11,12
Your observations can provide some of the most important clues to help your doctor make the right diagnosis. Take notes about your condition and bring them with you to your appointment so that you can precisely describe the pain youre experiencing.
Include details about the pain, such as whether its burning, stabbing or aching the time of day when your pain is at its worst and what youre doing at that time and the exact location or locations of the pain within the lower back region.13
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Lower Back Pain Causes
Nonspecific low back pain means that the pain is not due to any specific or underlying disease that can be found. It is thought that in some cases the cause may be an over-stretch of a ligament or muscle. In other cases the cause may be a minor problem with a disc between two spinal bones , or a minor problem with a small facet joint between two vertebrae. There may be other minor problems in the structures and tissues of the lower back that result in pain. However, these causes of the pain are impossible to prove by tests. Therefore, it is usually impossible for a doctor to say exactly where the pain is coming from, or exactly what is causing the pain.
To some people, not knowing the exact cause of the pain is unsettling. However, looked at another way, many people find it reassuring to know that the diagnosis is nonspecific back pain which means there is no serious problem or disease of the back or spine.
What Can I Do Right Now
1. Tame a Lower Back Flare: Use cold compressesor ice wrapped in a towel for the first 48 hours, usually 20 minutes on, 20 minutes off. After two days,switchto heat. To prevent stiffness, limit bed rest when not sleeping to only a few hours for two to three days maximum, and consult with your physician or therapist to help determine what physical exercises and movements will be best in aiding your recovery.23 Ask about using over-the-counter NSAIDs, acetaminophen, or other medications designed totreat acute pain.
2. Check in on Your Mental Health: Practice meditation and deepbreathing techniques to help promote calmness and relaxation. Talk to family and friends, or reach out to your physician, a therapist, or psychiatrist for help with coping with chronic pain. Join an in-person or an online support group. Check out these mental health resources for additional info and support:
3. Find a Clinician: Using websites such as HealthGrades.com, RateMDs.com, and Vitals.com can be helpful whensearching for a specialist or primary care physician in your area. If you already have a primary care physician, ask him or herfor trusted recommendations and any neededreferral paperwork.
5. Get Your Questions Answered: Its easy to forgetall thequestions you want to ask in the midst of an appointment, so write them down in advance, either in your journal or on your smartphone. They might include:
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Ix Referred Pain To The Lumbar Spine
Pain in the area of the lumbar spine may be due to important problems that are actually unrelated to the back.Referred pain occurs when a problem in one place in the body causes pain in another place. The pain travels down a nerve. For example, a pinched nerve in the neck may cause pain that is felt in the arm or hand. Sources of referred pain may include abdominal aneurysm , tubal pregnancy, kidney stones, pancreatitis, and colon cancer. Clues to these maladies include pain that waxes and wanes over a short period, with frequent peaks of intense pain, weight loss, abnormalities found during abdominal exam, and trace amounts of blood in the urine.
What Home Remedies For Lower Back Pain Actually Work
Unless youve had a major injury, such as a fall or car accident, you probably dont need to rush to the doctor for back pain. You may want to try these simple self-care strategies first.
Avoid bed rest. When lower back pain strikes, people often think complete rest will relieve back pain. However, a review of many clinical studies found that patients who retreated to bed actually experienced more pain and recovered more slowly than patients who stayed fairly active
Use ice and/or heat. Many people find that using ice or cold packs for periods of up to 20 minutes at a time helps reduce pain and swelling. Always wrap ice or a cold pack in a thin towel before putting it on your body so you dont injure your skin. You may also find that heat, such as a heating pad or warm bath, eases pain. Ice is recommended in the first 48 hours after injury then you can try a combo of ice and heat.
Try over-the-counter remedies. Short-term use of OTC pain relievers, such as the nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs ibuprofen and naproxen, may ease your lower back pain. Also consider OTC creams, gels, patches, or sprays applied to the skin. They stimulate the nerves in the skin to provide feelings of warmth or cold in order to dull the sensation of pain.
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Xv Useful Links And References
, Hospital for Special Surgery, Hector Lozada, PT, DPT, OCS, Robert Turner, PT, OCS, MS, Theodore R. Fields, MD, FACP, January 19, 2017.
Low Back Pain Fact Sheet, National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, National Institutes of Health. Reviewed, July 26, 2003.
Deyo RA, Weinstein JN, Low Back Pain, N Engl J Med, Vol 344, No. 5, Feb 1, 2001, pp 363-370.
1, 2. Excerpted from Low Back Pain Fact Sheet, National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, National Institutes of Health
How To Treat Lower Back Pain
Lower back pain may respond to many different modalities, but it often takes trial and errorand a lot of patienceto find what works for you.
The Tried-and-TrueThe first line of defense is often over-the-counter nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs and/or acetaminophen. Applying topical cold compresses, such as an ice pack, is recommended immediately after first experiencing a lower back injury or onset of pain. Heat therapy, such a heating pad, hot water bottle, or even an Epsom salt bath, can also be used to relax and soothe the surrounding muscles by helping to increase blood flow to the lower back.15
When to Call Your Doctor or SpecialistIf your pain is recent, or mild to moderate but over-the-counter pain relievers and topical compresses dont provide relief, call your primary care doctor. He or she will be able to evaluate what is causing the pain and, if appropriate, prescribe a muscle relaxant. Historically, opioids were commonly prescribed to treat pain, but due to the increasing numbers of opioid-related overdoses and deaths, many practitioners no longer view them as the best strategy for non-cancer-related pain, Jamison explains. However, doctors now can implement opioid risk assessments and monitor urine samples in order to better prevent the risk of opioid abuse, Jamison says.
Depending on your diagnosis, your doctor may refer you to a specialist, such as an orthopedist, physical therapist, or psychotherapist, as needed.
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Do I Have Sciatica Here Are 5 Ways To Tell
With so many possible causes of sciatica and so many other conditions that can easily masquerade as sciatica, is there ever a way to know for sure? How can you definitively determine if your pain is sciatica or not?
The most definitive way is to visit your doctor and receive an official diagnosis. However if youre just looking to get an idea for yourself before you visit your doctor, here is a guide to help you determine if you are truly experiencing sciatica.