Top 7 Most Serious Causes Of Back Pain
Approximately 80% of adults in the United States will suffer from back pain at some point. Fortunately, most of the time that pain is due to a straightforward problem such as a herniated disc or degenerative disease in the spine. These problems are bothersome, and can even be dangerous if too much time is allowed to pass, but they are not considered a medical emergency.
On the other hand, anytime back pain is associated with weakness or loss of bladder or bowel control, it should be considered an emergency that requires immediate treatment. These symptoms can suggest compression of the spinal cord or cauda equina. Moreover, sometimes back pain can be a sign of more significant trouble. Here are some of the most serious causes of back pain that both doctors and patients must be careful not to miss.
Key Points About Low Back Pain
- Specific treatment for low back pain depends on the cause of the pain and the severity. But it often includes pain medicines and muscle relaxers, physical therapy, and assistive devices such as a back support. It also may include lifestyle changes such as stress reduction, weight loss, and increased physical activity.
- A back rehab program may be used as part of the treatment for low back pain.
- Measures to prevent back pain include using safe lifting techniques, maintaining correct posture, staying at a healthy weight, not smoking, and reducing stress.
Pelvic Pain During Pregnancy
Some women experience pelvic pain during pregnancy. Pelvic pain can affect one or both sides of the lower back.
This pain may also affect the perineum or radiate to the thighs. It may worsen while walking, standing up, or rolling onto the side.
The following tips may help reduce pelvic pain during pregnancy:
- doing exercises that strengthen the pelvic floor
- avoiding standing for too long
- getting plenty of rest
Women can also try applying ice or heat packs to help ease the pain. OTC acetaminophen is generally safe to take during pregnancy. However, it is advisable to speak to a doctor before taking any medications while pregnant.
Testicular torsion can cause back pain on the lower right side in males.
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Can Back Pain Lead To Complications
The good news is that most people recover from back pain within a few weeks.1 See your doctor if you experience additional symptoms, such as:
- loss of bowel and/or bladder control
- severe pain that gets worse instead of better over time
- problems with passing urine or bowel movements
- numbness or a pins-and-needles sensation in your legs, back or elsewhere
- unexplained weight loss
- back redness or swelling
For some people, back pain becomes an ongoing problem. Around 1 in every 2 people who experience back pain will experience it again, and for 1 in 5 people, back pain may last beyond 8 to 12 weeks. Possible complications that result from persistent, long-term back pain include:
- dependence on strong pain medicines, such as opioids
- reduced quality of life
- more difficulty finding work and keeping active
See your healthcare professional if your back pain is unresolved and limits your movement and activities. A health care professional can help you find ways to manage your pain and regain a better quality of life.
How Do The Intestines Work
The intestines are part of the digestive system and run from the abdomen to the anus. Most nutrients are absorbed in the intestines. The intestines are a few metres long. On average, the small intestine is 6 metres and the large intestine one and a half metres. Via peristaltic movements the small intestines transport undigested food to the large intestines. In the large intestines, this food is processed and various rotting and fermentation processes take place. This is where bowel problems, such as flatulence or wind, often occur.
In most of the cases, the cause of bowel problems is an incorrect lifestyle, such as smoking and lack of exercise. Also, food with too much fat and too few fibres may cause diarrhoea or constipation. To prevent or reduce bowel problems, it is recommended to ensure you eat high-fibre foods .
Fibres are parts of vegetable foods that your small intestines cannot digest or absorb. They go to the large intestines undigested. Due to a lack of fibres in food, there will be fewer indigestible material in the intestines. In the absence of sufficient bulk and the stimulating action of the food fibres, the intestines are insufficiently stimulated. This is detrimental for proper digestion of food. Moreover, too little fluid is absorbed causing hard stools and making bowel movements difficult.
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How Is Back Pain Diagnosed
Most people who develop low back pain that comes on suddenly have nonspecific low back pain. If there are no other associated symptoms and the pain is not too bad, many people are confident to just ‘get on with it’ and treat it themselves – and indeed most get better quickly. However, if in doubt, see your doctor for a check-over and advice.
A doctor will usually want to ask questions about your symptoms and to examine you. Basically, the symptoms are usually as described above, with no other worrying symptoms to suggest anything serious or another cause of back pain . The examination by a doctor will not detect anything to suggest a more serious cause of back pain. Therefore, a doctor can usually be confident from his or her assessment that you have nonspecific back pain.
As a general guide, if any of the following occur then it may not be nonspecific low back pain, and there may be a more serious underlying cause. But note: the vast majority of people with low back pain do not have any of the following symptoms or features. They are included here for completeness and as an aid to what to look out for and to tell your doctor should they occur.
When Are Diagnostic Tests For Lower Back Pain Necessary
Many patients do not need X-rays in the first few weeks of pain because their pain will end up resolving. Many more do not need CT scans or MRI imaging, which are overly sensitive and often reveal abnormalities not related to the patients pain. These forms of imaging can be extremely useful, however, if a person has chronic or severe pain, and/or neurological symptoms. Blood tests may be ordered if an infection or tumor is suspected.
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Treatments For Swelling In Legs And Feet
Swelling in the legs and feet can result from a variety of different causes so treatment will vary. Treating any underlying condition is necessary first before attempting other treatments, which include:
- Wearing compression stockings to help improve circulation from the legs back to the heart
- Elevating your feet above the level of your heart after prolonged sitting or standing
- Regular exercise involving the legs to promote improved blood flow
- Increasing fluid intake and decreasing sodium intake
- Diuretic medication to help get rid of excess fluid retention
Why Your Back Muscles Hurt
This may sound suspiciously like common sense, but your back muscles hurt when you pull them too far or place them under too much strain.
But contrary to common misperception, the underlying cause of this back muscle pain is not poor posture, how much you exercise or even your genetic history.
Instead, poor posture can be strong evidence of the real cause. Exercise of the wrong kind can make it worse . And the good news is you can do something about this underlying cause of back pain regardless of your genetics.
The root cause of virtually all non-trauma related back muscle pain and a major contributor to many back conditions like herniated discs are muscle imbalances.
One way to visualize muscle imbalances and how they cause back pain is to think of your car. If the wheels are out of alignment, the tires will wear unevenly, making them more susceptible to an early blowout.
Imbalanced muscles do the same thing to your back. Muscle pain results when one muscle or group of muscles overpowers an opposing set of muscles that get stretched out of shape.
And heres the kicker many of the muscles affecting your back pain arent in your back!
For example, sitting all day long leads to weak abs, glutes, and hamstrings which go unused much of the day. In the meanwhile, your hip flexors, quadriceps and lumbar muscles remain tight to keep you in an upright position.
This video explains how muscle imbalances affect your pain, and how to fix them.
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What Does It Mean If Lower Back Pain Is Shooting Into Legs
Lower back pain can radiate to other parts of the body: up or down from its place of origin. Sometimes lower back pain can be on one side of the back, which is also normal.
If the pain is shooting from the lower back into one or both legs, it could be sciatica , but its not always the case. There are many parts in the lower back that may cause the pain to radiate into the legs, such as facet joints, sacroiliac joints, muscles or inflammation of the bursa.
Back Pain Due To Irritable Bowel Syndrome
A frequent complaint and diagnosis are colon spasms or irritable bowel, a syndrome that occurs more often in women, also during the menstrual cycle. When you suffer from abdominal pain and bloating, it is possible that you suffer from IBS or irritable bowel syndrome. One of the symptoms is a very painful lower back.
Pain in the lower abdomen and the lower back occurs in various ways. Depending on the condition, you can feel the pain in a specific part of the abdomen, for instance at the bottom. Sometimes the entire abdomen can be painful with a painful feeling in the sides and the lower back or in the lower back and the pelvis. This does not always mean it is serious. Many women have this periodically. A hot water bottle and pain killers are still the best cure. In the event of serious pain, you must contact a GP.
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What Can I Do For My Lower Back Pain
The first step in getting relief from your back pain is to identify its cause. For instance, the treatment for trauma-induced back pain may be something for which you need professional help, while tension-induced pain may be able to be treated at home.
In general, over-the-counter medications, ice, and heat can provide significant relief from run-of-the-mill lower back pain. At the onset of your back pain, apply a cold compress for about 15 minutes, 3 4 times a day. After the first few days, use a heating pad instead. Warm showers or baths may also help loosen your muscles and relieve your pain. In some cases, massage therapy may help alleviate your symptoms. However, make sure that you seek treatment from a qualified, certified, and experienced professional, as improper techniques may result in a worsening of your pain.
For back pain that is caused by more serious conditions, including disk problems or osteoarthritis, professional intervention may be needed. In some cases, surgery may be recommended, but there are many instances when less invasive techniques can be equally or even more beneficial. Dr. Williams is proud to offer the breakthrough Regenexx family of procedures to his patients suffering from chronic pain and other problems. During your initial consultation, Dr. Williams will thoroughly evaluate your case, begin the process of diagnosing your condition, and explain how Regenexx treatment may benefit you.
Is Lower Right Back Pain Serious
Lower right back pain can vary in severity. You will probably have the best idea of your pain level and when you should see a physician.
- Not serious: Mild pain may come on fairly suddenly after exercise and responds to rest and over-the-counter pain relievers.
- Moderately serious: In some cases, an injury that at first seems minor can become worse over time. Back injuries can easily become chronic if not treated quickly.
- Serious: If your back pain interferes with your normal activities and is becoming severe, you should see a physician as soon as possible.
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Dysfunction Of Sacroiliac Joints
Dysfunction of the sacroiliac joints is also called sacroiliitis. You have two sacroiliac joints, one on each side of your spine where it connects with the top of your pelvis. Sacroiliitis is inflammation of this joint. It can affect one or both sides.
Pain in your lower back and buttocks is the most common symptom. The pain is usually made worse by:
- unexplained weight loss
- pain after a fall or injury
If you need help finding a primary care doctor, you can browse doctors in your area through the Healthline FindCare tool.
Muscle Strain Or Sciatica
Muscle strain is often the cause of back pain from heavy lifting or vigorous exercise. But sometimes itâs due to small jelly-filled disks meant to protect the space between vertebrae. When one of these disks bulges or breaks, it can push on a nerve. When itâs the sciatic nerve, pain runs from the buttock down one leg. This is sciatica.
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Do Morning Stretches In Bed
Simple stretching exercises can relieve back pain, and there are stretches you can do before you get out of bed.
For example, you can lie on your back and do a full-body stretch when you first wake up. For this exercise, stretch your arms and hands above your head as far as you can, with your legs and feet stretching in the opposite direction. Hold for a few seconds before releasing.
It may also help to stretch out your lower back. To do this, you can bring your knees into your chest and hold, wrapping your arms around them. Then gently rock from side to side.
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Take It Slow When Getting Up
Taking it slow when you get out of bed can be beneficial. You may want to use your arms to sit up slowly before moving your legs off the side of the bed. Once you plant your feet on the ground, shoulder-width apart, you can stand up slowly, using your leg strength instead of your back to help you up.
After carefully standing, you can further relieve tension by reaching your arms up above your head and stretching slowly from side to side.
What Is The Treatment For Chronic Nonspecific Low Back Pain
Initial treatment is similar to sudden-onset attacks. That is, aim to keep as active as possible. Also, painkillers can help. In addition to the painkillers listed above, your doctor may advise a course of an antidepressant medicine in the tricyclic group – for example, amitriptyline. Tricyclic antidepressants have other actions separate to their action on depression. They are used in a variety of painful conditions, including back pain.
Also, a national guideline , referenced below) recommends one or more of the following treatments should be considered. Each of these treatments has some evidence from research trials to suggest that they will help to ease symptoms in some people :
- Structured exercise programme. This means a programme of exercise supervised by a professional such as a physiotherapist. This is likely to be in a group setting. Exercises may include aerobic activity, movement instruction, muscle strengthening, posture control and stretching. It typically consists of up to eight supervised sessions over 8-12 weeks with encouragement to keep on doing the exercises at home between sessions.
- Manual therapy. Typically this includes several sessions of massage, spinal mobilisation and/or spinal manipulation. With spinal mobilisation the therapist moves the joints of the spine around in their normal movement range. In spinal manipulation, the therapist moves joints beyond the usual range of movement.
- A course of acupuncture. It is not clear how this may work.
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Less Common Causes Of Low Back Pain
While considerably less common, low back pain may also be caused by:
Infection. Also called osteomyelitis, a spinal infection is rare but can cause severe pain and is life threatening if untreated. It can be caused by surgical procedures, injections, or spread through the blood stream. Patients with a compromised immune system are more susceptible to developing an infection in the spine.
Tumor. Most spinal tumors start in another part of the body and metastasize to the spine. The most common tumors that spread to the spine start from cancer in the breast, prostate, kidney, thyroid, or lung. Any new symptoms of back pain in a patient with a known diagnosis of cancer should be evaluated for possible spinal metastasis.
Autoimmune disease. Back pain is a possible symptom associated with autoimmune conditions, such as ankylosing spondylitis, rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, crohns disease, fibromyalgia, and others.
This list includes the more common causes of back pain, but there are many more. Finding the optimal treatment for low back pain usually depends on obtaining a correct clinical diagnosis that identifies the underlying cause of the patients symptoms.