Low Back Pain Fact Sheet
If you have had lower back pain, you are not alone. Back pain is one of most common reasons people see a doctor or miss days at work. Even school-age children can have back pain.
Back pain can range in intensity from a dull, constant ache to a sudden, sharp or shooting pain. It can begin suddenly as a result of an accident or by lifting something heavy, or it can develop over time as we age. Getting too little exercise followed by a strenuous workout also can cause back pain.
There are two types of back pain:
- Acute, or short-term back pain lasts a few days to a few weeks. Most low back pain is acute. It tends to resolve on its own within a few days with self-care and there is no residual loss of function. In some cases a few months are required for the symptoms to disappear.
- Chronic back pain is defined as pain that continues for 12 weeks or longer, even after an initial injury or underlying cause of acute low back pain has been treated. About 20 percent of people affected by acute low back pain develop chronic low back pain with persistent symptoms at one year. Even if pain persists, it does not always mean there is a medically serious underlying cause or one that can be easily identified and treated. In some cases, treatment successfully relieves chronic low back pain, but in other cases pain continues despite medical and surgical treatment.
Herniated Or Slipped Disc
A herniated disc, also known as a slipped or ruptured disc, can cause intense pain in the lower back.
Between the bones of your spine are cushioned discs that allow the bones of your spine to rotate and bend without rubbing against one another.
Sometimes, these discs can be pushed out of place by heavy lifting, bending, or for unknown reasons. The out-of-place disc is considered herniated or slipped.
When this happens, the bulge from the disc creates pressure on the nerves of the spine which results in pain.
A herniated disc is typically caused by trauma or excessive activity.
If you live a sedentary lifestyle or are overweight, you may also be at greater risk of getting a herniated disc.
The location and type of pain you experience depends on which part of your spine has been affected.
For example, herniated discs in the low back can create pressure on the sciatic nerve, triggering sciatica.
A herniated disc may also interfere with other muscles, nerves, or ligaments, causing symptoms like:
- Pain in the area of the disc
- Pressure in the lower back
- Numbness or tingling in the back
- Numbness or tingling that happens in the legs or other areas affected by the nerve
Pain that is severe enough to limit your ability to stand or walk should be evaluated by your healthcare provider.
How Is Back Pain Treated
Acute back pain usually gets better on its own. Acute back pain is usually treated with:
- Medications designed to relieve pain and/or inflammation
- analgesics such as acetaminophen and aspirin
- non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs such as ibuprofen and naproxen may be sold over the counter some NSAIDS are prescribed by a physician
- muscle relaxants are prescription drugs that are used on a short-term basis to relax tight muscles
- topical pain relief such as creams, gels, patches, or sprays applied to the skin stimulate the nerves in the skin to provide feelings of warmth or cold in order to dull the sensation of pain. Common topical medications include capsaicin and lidocaine.
Exercising, bed rest, and surgery are typically not recommended for acute back pain.Chronic back pain is most often treated with a stepped care approach, moving from simple low-cost treatments to more aggressive approaches. Specific treatments may depend on the identified cause of the back pain.
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Complementary Alternative Emerging Treatments
In some cases, doctors suggest therapies that are not considered current standard of care. They probably wont be covered by insurance, but they may be worth considering. Examples include:
. PRP treatments use a small sample of your own blood that has concentrated amounts of blood building blocks known as platelets. Your doctor then injects the PRP directly into a damaged disc. The theory is that PRP injections use your own healing system to accelerate improvement of injured tendons, ligaments, muscles, and joints.
PRP treatment has a longer track record in knee osteoarthritis, but a recent review article in the Journal of Spine Surgery suggests it may have a useful role for back pain, too. PRP needs a lot more research before it can be considered a proven technique.
In this emerging treatment, your doctor injects stem cells harvested from your hip into the intervertebral disc or discs causing your pain. Doing so may lessen pain and the degenerative effects of aging, though, like PRP, more research is needed before stem cells for lower back pain could eventually become the standard of care.
. Your doctor probably doesnt perform acupuncture , but may support you trying it as a complementary therapy. Acupuncture involves careful insertion of fine, sterile needles into specific points on your body. This may stimulate the release of your natural pain-killing chemicals.
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.
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How Physical Therapy Can Help You
Sudden severe lower back pain can be debilitating and have a significant effect on your quality of life. Fortunately, physical therapy is considered one of the most effective treatments for this condition and can help you recover quickly and effectively.
It helps to strengthen the muscles that support your spine, improve flexibility, and reduce inflammation. This can also help you learn proper posture and body mechanics to prevent further episodes of sudden severe lower back pain. Some common techniques used in physical therapy for sudden severe lower back pain include:
Lower Abdominal Pain In Females: Causes
Commonly known as pelvic pain, lower abdominal pain is very common among most of the females. This pain occurs below the belly button, and the effect is felt at the pelvic area along with the bladder and reproductive organs.
- PMS- Pre-menstrual Syndrome
PMS is one of the main causes of lower abdominal pain among females. This condition affects physical condition, emotions, and behavior generally before and during menses. Some females feel pain during the cycle, while for some the pain goes away once the cycle begins. According to the researchers, the pain and emotional flashes are because of change in sex hormone and serotonin levels at the onset of the menstrual cycle. There is no such cure for PMS but if the syndrome is mild, it can be eased down by drinking plenty of fluids, taking vitamins and calcium supplements, eating a good diet for good overall health and stamina, proper sleep, meditation, and workout.
- Digestive System Disorder
Yet another cause is pain coming from the large intestine. Both constipation, as well as diarrhea, can cause pain. Initially, if you treat your constipation and diarrhea with appropriates liquids and complete rest along with OTC pain relievers, you can soon feel relaxed and notice that lower abdominal pain also fades with time.
- Urinary Tract Infection
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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.
When Should You See A Doctor For Your Lower Back Pain
Most back pain caused by sprains or overuse tends to get better without treatment within a few weeks. Over-the-counter pain relievers and/or heat or cold application to the painful area can help decrease your back pain. Bed rest is not suggested.
However, there may be other causes that require attention and treatment.
When to see your doctor
Call your doctor if your back pain doesn’t get better after treating it at home for a week. It can mean there’s a bigger problem that the doctor needs to evaluate. You’ll also want to call your doctor if your back pain:
Spreads down one or both of your legs, particularly if you have pain extending below your knee
Is intense or constant, particularly when you lie down or at night
Occurs with redness or swelling on your back
Causes numbness, tingling, or weakness in one or both of your legs
When is lower back pain an emergency?
While rushing to the emergency department is probably not something you want to do, you need to take back pain seriously left side, right side, or both.
When suffering from severe back pain, a visit to the ER is recommended. It could indicate a medical emergency. Some red-flag symptoms of back issues that may indicate an emergency are a combination of any of the following:
If you experience any of the above symptoms, visit the emergency room immediately or call 911 if you’re unable to get to the emergency room on your own.
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Causes Of Lower Back And Hip Pain
Your lower back and hip are co-dependent on each other. They share many muscle groups, so its no wonder that disruption or pain in one tends to cause problems in the other. If you suffer from lower back pain or hip pain, you risk experiencing abnormalities in muscle function or movement.
Lets take a look at 6 causes of lower back and hip pain:
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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Could Lower Back Pain Be Kidney Pain
It absolutely can. Kidneys are located on the back side of your body and kidney pain can sometimes feel like back pain. The only true way to tell the difference is to visit a doctor who can conduct a thorough examination.
Back Pain Causes and Treatments Webinar | Stephanie Van, M.D.
Chronic back pain is a persistent source of discomfort for many adults. In this webinar, our expert Stephanie Van, M.D., discusses common causes of back pain along with strategies for relief.
What Causes Back Pain
Your spine or backbone is a complex structure that is made up of 24 small bones called vertebrae that are stacked on top of each other. Discs sit between each vertebra to act as cushions or shock absorbers and give your spine flexibility. Vertebrae are joined together by small joints called facet joints. These joints allow you to move and bend your back. A mesh of ligaments and muscles hold the spine together and provide structural support, which allows you to move.
Back pain can originate from any of these structures, but in most cases, this pain doesnt result from any significant damage to your spine. This pain usually stems from surrounding muscles, ligaments or joints and occasionally spinal disc problems.
For at least 9 in 10 people, back pain is not caused by any particular condition and is referred to as non-specific back pain.
This type of back pain results from a range of different factors such as:
Less than 1 in 100 people have back pain that is related to a serious medical problem such as cancer, infection, a spinal fracture or specific conditions such as ankylosing spondylitis. Research has also shown that you actually dont need to know the cause of back pain to treat it successfully.
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Why Back Pain Requires A Team Approach To Care
Whether back pain requires surgery or is manageable with conservative treatment, its important to see a spine specialist for diagnosis and care. The doctors at our Spine Center work as a team with experts in nerve, muscle, and bone conditions, as well as nurses and physical therapists who work closely with patients to manage symptoms and reduce the risk of recurrence.
Each week, our multidisciplinary team meets to discuss challenging cases and educate each other on the latest research and techniques. Together, we see a range of patients with complex medical needs. For example, if a patient with a spinal infection is taking a medication that suppresses the immune system, such as immunotherapy for cancer, we work together to find an effective treatment that is safe for their unique needs.
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.
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Chronic Low Back Pain
Chronic low back pain is a common condition. It is defined by low back pain lasting more than six weeks. Unfortunately, a clear cause can only be found in twenty percent of cases. The rest of the time, it is believed to be due to strain on the bones and muscles of the back from heavy lifting, prolonged sitting, or bad posture.
For back pain persisting longer than six weeks, it is recommended to make an appointment with a physician. Treatments may include a program of back exercises, as well as pain medicine such as ibuprofen and acetaminophen . It is also recommended to stay active and carry on with the things you usually do as much as possible, to help you recover faster. Sitting or lying still for long periods can actually make the pain worse. Your joints may become stiff which will make it harder and more painful to move your back.
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You Sit And Sit Some More
Youve probably heard by now that lots of sitting can take a toll on your health. Its also a lesser-known cause of back pain. If youre sitting for a period of time, your joints aren’t being used, says Akhil Chhatre, M.D., director of spine rehabilitation and assistant professor in the departments of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation and Neurosurgery at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.
Immobility in that nerve-dense location can jump-start whats known as the pain-spasm-pain cycle, in which a skeletal muscle spasm causes pain in your spine. That exacerbates the spasm, which, in turn, exacerbates the pain. It doesn’t involve just your spine, Chhatre says. It can extend to your hips and sacroiliac joints.
One study showed that people who sat for 75 percent of the workday reported more back and neck pain than those who sat less . And not surprisingly the pandemic made matters worse. A small population study out of Malta published last spring in Musculoskeletal Care suggests that the sedentary lifestyle enforced by the stay-at-home mandate and shift to remote working resulted in an increase in back pain. Part of the cause was inactivity, but the researchers say the lack of ergonomic furniture at home also could have played a role. Another possible reason: COVID-era weight gain.
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