When Should To Call My Healthcare Provider
Lumbar spinal stenosis can cause cauda equine syndrome, which needs medical attention right away. Call your healthcare provider if you have:
- Loss of bowel or bladder control
- Severe or increasing numbness between your legs, inner thighs, or back of your legs
- Severe pain and weakness that spreads into one or both legs, making it hard to walk or get out of a chair
How Is Spinal Cord Compression Treated
The medical team involved in treating your spinal cord compression may include arthritis specialists, bone surgeons, nerve specialists, and physical therapists. Treatment depends on the cause and your symptoms and may involve medication, physical therapy, injections, and surgery. Except in cases of emergency, such as cauda equina syndrome or a broken back, surgery is usually the last resort.
Medicines may include nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs that relieve pain and swelling, and steroid injections that reduce swelling.
Physical therapy may include exercises to strengthen your back, abdominal, and leg muscles. You may learn how to do activities more safely. Braces to support your back or a cervical collar may also be helpful.
Surgical treatments include removing bone spurs and widening the space between vertebrae. Other procedures may be done to relieve pressure on the spine or repair fractured vertebrae. The back may also be stabilized by fusing some of the vertebrae together.
Some other treatments that may be helpful for some people include acupuncture and chiropractic care.
Development Of Neck Pain With Weak Legs
As mentioned above, there are many causes for neck and leg symptoms that exist concurrently or in alternating fashion. Some patients develop both together, while others suffer one painful zone, then suffer migration of their symptomology to include both locations.
Symptoms may begin acutely or may develop gradually. In acute presentations, there may or may not be a trigger event that is actually or perceptually responsible for causing the pain. In gradual progressions, there is rarely a known or suspected trigger.
Symptom pattern may become chronic if it continues unchecked for weeks or months. Other patients might instead develop recurrent acute episodes of symptoms in one or both affected locations.
It is vital for patients to document the development and progression of their neck symptoms in order to assist diagnosticians in ascertaining the cause and best approach to treatment. The more patient-supplied information that can be provided to the doctor, the better the chances that a comprehensive diagnostic picture can be attained hopefully leading to effective treatment and lasting relief.
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When Should I See A Doctor If I Have Lower Back Pain
In many cases lower back pain stops on its own. But if it doesnt, here are some guidelines on when you may want to start seeking professional help:
- If the pain lasts four weeks or longer
- If the pain keeps getting worse as time goes by
- If you are experiencing other symptoms, such as fever, major weight loss or weight gain, loss of function or weakness in extremities, bladder problems, etc.
Less Common Causes Of Low Back Pain
Inflammation of the joints of the spine sometimes causes back pain. Osteoarthritis is the common form of arthritis and usually occurs in older people. Ankylosing spondylitis is another form of arthritis that can occur in young adults and which causes pain and stiffness in the lower back. Rheumatoid arthritis may affect the spine but you are likely to have other joints affected too.
Various uncommon bone disorders, tumours, infection and pressure from structures near to the spine occasionally cause low back pain .
The rest of this leaflet is mainly about nonspecific low back pain – the common type of low back pain.
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When To Call The Doctor
Your sciatica may go away on its own, but if your pain is severe or doesnât go away, you may want to see your doctor. Sciatica can be treated with physical therapy, medication, and surgery.
Seek immediate medical attention if you have any of the following symptoms:
- Weakness in your lower extremities
- Numbness in your leg
- Loss of bladder or bowel control
- Severe pain in your lower back or leg
Causes Of Leg Weakness
Identifying the exact cause of leg weakness depends on the collection of symptoms present, the medical history of a person as well as the results of various diagnostic investigations. Below are some of the possible causes of leg weakness. While some causes may be obvious like leg weakness after a fall leading to fracture of the leg bones, at other times it may be less obvious as may occur with certain chronic autoimmune and neurodegenerative conditions.
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What Can I Do For The Pain And Numbness
Once you know you have lumbar canal stenosis or claudication, you have several choices for treatment, depending on how bad your symptoms are. If your pain is mild and you haven’t had it for very long, you can try an exercise program or a physical therapy program, to strengthen your back muscles and improve your posture. Your doctor may also prescribe medicine for inflammation in your back bone.
If you have severe back pain and claudication, however, you may need to see a spine surgeon. This doctor may recommend surgery to take the pressure off the nerves in your lower spine. The surgery is called a laminectomy , since parts of your spine called the lamina are taken out to make room for the nerves in the spinal canal. This surgery is safe and works well for most people.
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.
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Chronic Low Back Pain Of No Specific Origin
Low back pain is defined as pain, tightness, and stiffness between the lower end of the rib cage and the buttocks. “Chronic” means the pain has lasted for twelve weeks or longer, and “no specific origin” means the pain cannot be traced to any specific cause, incident, or injury.
Most susceptible are individuals who perform heavy physical work, especially when there is ongoing anxiety, depression, and emotional stress at the same time. The longer the stress and back pain continue, the more difficult it is to ease the symptoms and return the patient to normal functioning.
Treatment involves nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs and sometimes opioid medications for pain, though both have risks when used long term. Antidepressants may also be tried, along with psychological counseling.
Corticosteroid injections for the back are effective for some patients, and fusion surgery is sometimes attempted. Lifestyle changes in the form of improved diet, exercise, and stress management are very helpful in most cases.
Top Symptoms: lower back pain, unintentional weight loss, back pain that shoots to the butt, fever, involuntary defecation
Symptoms that always occur with chronic low back pain of no specific origin: lower back pain
Symptoms that never occur with chronic low back pain of no specific origin: thigh numbness, buttocks numbness, lower back pain from an injury
Urgency: Primary care doctor
Let’s Define Where The Sciatic Nerve Is Located
The sciatica nerve is one of the largest nerves in the body and has the size of two small fingers. The nerves contain two sacral nerves and lumbar nerves that join in the lower part of your spinal cord. The nerve typically extends from the spinal column, passes behind the hip joint, and goes down to the leg and d ankle.
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What Are Some Common Lower Back Pain Causes
The causes of lower back pain are sometimes viewed as being mechanical, organic or idiopathic. Sometimes spinal conditions are congenital or acquired meaning the disorder develops later in life.
- Mechanical lower back pain is often triggered by spinal movement and involves spinal structures, such as the facet joints, intervertebral discs, vertebral bodies , ligaments, muscles or soft tissues.
- Organic lower back pain is attributed to disease, such as spinal cancer.
- Idiopathic refers to an unknown cause.
These are some of the things your doctor might look for or rule out when you schedule a visit for back pain.
The common symptoms of lower back pain.
Sprains and strains. Ligament sprains and muscle or tendon strains are the most common causes of lower back pain. Theyre often related to overuse.
Degenerative disc disease. While the name sounds worrisome, it just means you have a damaged disc causing pain. Over time, discs become thinner and flatter due to wear and tear. That leaves them less able to cushion the vertebrae and more likely to tear .
Herniated disc. The protective covering on intervertebral discs can tear over time. When this happens, the soft inner disc tissue may push through the outer layer. A disc that bulges or slips out of place is known as a herniated disc, bulging disc, or slipped disc. The herniation may press on nerve roots, leading to symptoms such as pain, tingling, numbness or weakness in the area that the nerve serves
When To Contact A Medical Professional
- Back pain after a severe blow or fall
- Burning with urination or blood in your urine
- History of cancer
- Loss of control over urine or stool
- Pain traveling down your legs below the knee
- Pain that is worse when you lie down or pain that wakes you up at night
- Redness or swelling on the back or spine
- Severe pain that does not allow you to get comfortable
- Unexplained fever with back pain
- Weakness or numbness in your buttocks, thigh, leg, or pelvis
Also call if:
- You have been losing weight unintentionally
- You use steroids or intravenous drugs
- You have had back pain before, but this episode is different and feels worse
- This episode of back pain has lasted longer than 4 weeks
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Pain That Happens At Night
The timing of the pain is important. As I wrote, leg pain at night has a set of causes that is not identical to pain that happens also at other times. The three main causes to think about are:
- Lack of blood flow to the muscles. This is probably the most severe option. For artery blockages to cause leg pain at night, they have to be very severe.
- Calf cramps at night. Muscle cramps are very common. They can be very painful.
- Neuropathy. Nerve pain is also very common and people tend to feel it mostly during the night.
Simple stretching exercises can prevent night-time cramping.
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How Common Is Lower Back Pain
Two out of every three adults suffer from low back pain at some time. Back pain is the #2 reason adults visit a doctor and the #1 reason for orthopedic visits. It keeps people home from work and interferes with routine daily activities, recreation, and exercise. The good news is that for 9 out of 10 patients with low back pain, the pain is acute, meaning it is short-term and goes away within a few days or weeks. There are cases of low back pain, however, that take much longer to improve, and some that need evaluation for a possible cause other than muscle strain or arthritis.
Symptoms may range from muscle ache to shooting or stabbing pain, limited flexibility and/or range of motion, or an inability to stand straight.
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Lower Back Pain: What Could It Be
Do you have lower back pain? You are not alone. Anyone can experience lower back pain at any time, even if you dont have a prior injury or any of the risk factors. It is not always serious and can often get better on its own. But in some cases pain is your bodys way of telling you that something isnt right.
Learn more about lower back pain and what causes it from rehabilitation physician Akhil Chhatre, M.D., who specializes in back pain in the Johns Hopkins Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation.
Which Lifestyle Factors Contribute To Lower Back Pain
There are three major lifestyle factors that may affect your chances of developing lower back pain:
- Multiple studies have established a link between smoking and lower back pain. Smoking raises inflammation inside the body and hinders the body from healing itself.
- Obesity is also associated with several types of chronic pain, including lower back pain. In people with high body mass index , the stress on the spine increases, contributing to even more wear and tear.
- Your level of physical activity can also play a role in your lower back health. While a sedentary lifestyle could increase your risk of developing lower back pain, so can excessive or strenuous physical activity. Check with your doctor if you are unsure about your ideal level of physical activity.
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Spondylitis And Numbness Or Weakness In Legs
Spondylitis is a condition that may cause symptoms such as numbness or weakness in the legs.
As a rheumatic and autoimmune disease, symptoms of spondylitis occur when the immune system attacks its own tissue and joints, mainly in the spine, leading to inflammation. The most common symptom of spondylitis is lower back pain. However, symptoms like neck pain, hip pain, leg pain, numbness, and weakness in the legs may occur. Experiencing numbness, tingling, and weakness accompanied by severe head, neck, or back pain requires immediate assessment by a physician. Other cases may be less serious.
Heres what to know, including why you may be experiencing numbness, tingling, or weakness in your legs as well as how to manage these bothersome symptoms.
What Happens To Your Body When You Have A Seizure
These seizures usually affect muscles in your back, arms and legs and may cause you to lose consciousness and fall to the ground. Atonic seizures. Atonic seizures, also known as drop seizures, cause a loss of muscle control, which may cause you to suddenly collapse, fall down or drop your head. Clonic seizures.
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Ready To Address Your Back Pain
The University of Maryland Spine Network can help you put your pain behind you. With convenient locations throughout the state, the UM Spine Network is home to the region’s leading spine surgeons and specialists that can help you identify the source of your pain and put an end to it for good.
Put an end to your back pain. Find a spine specialist near you.
In This Section:
What Causes Spinal Cord Compression
One of the most common causes of spinal cord compression is the gradual wear and tear on the bones of the spine, known as osteoarthritis. People who develop spinal cord compression from this are usually older than 50.
Other conditions that may cause spinal cord compression can develop more quickly, even very suddenly, and can occur at any age:
Abnormal spine alignment
Foot drop, weakness in a foot that causes a limp
Loss of sexual ability
Pressure on nerves in the lumbar region can also cause more serious symptoms known as cauda equina syndrome. If you have any of these symptoms, you need to get medical attention right away, typically in the emergency room:
Loss of bowel or bladder control
Severe or increasing numbness between the legs, inner thighs, and back of the legs
Severe pain and weakness that spreads into one or both legs, making it hard to walk or get out of a chair
Spinal Fusion | Richard Shetters Story
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You’re Running A Fever
The flu can definitely make you run a fever and achiness, including in your back. However, if the fever is unresponsive to standard OTC medications, you could have a serious infection that needs treatment immediately. If you go to a doctor and they find an infection, they may prescribe antibiotics and a few days rest.
What Causes Lumbar Strain
Injury can damage the tendons and muscles in the lower back. Pushing and pulling sports, such as weight lifting or football, can lead to a lumbar strain. In addition, sports that require sudden twisting of the lower back, such as in tennis, basketball, baseball, and golf, can lead to this injury.
Certain risk factors can increase the risk for this injury. The risk factors are:
- Severe lower back curvature
- Weak back or belly muscles
- Tight hamstrings
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