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What Causes Really Bad Back Pain

Can Lower Back Pain Be Related To Weather

Can Grains Really Cause Low Back Pain?

If you feel like your lower back pain worsens on days when its cold or the weather is changing, you are not imagining things. Back pain can indeed be related to barometric pressure and outdoor temperature. Changes in pressure can sometimes cause pain in arthritic joints, including the spine. Muscles and joints in general react to the environment, which can make them stiffer and more likely to suffer an injury.

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:

How Your Back Works

The spine, which is also called the backbone or spinal column, is one of the strongest parts of the body and gives us a great deal of flexibility and strength.

Its made up of 24 bones, known as vertebrae, one sitting on top of the other. These bones have discs in between and lots of strong ligaments and muscles around them for support. There are also the bones in the tailbone at the bottom of the back, which are fused together and have no discs in between.

On either side of the spine, running from top to bottom, are many small joints called the facet joints.

The spinal cord passes inside the vertebrae, which protect it.

The spinal cord connects to the brain through the base of the skull and to the rest of the body by nerves that pass through spaces between the bones of the spine. These nerves are also known as nerve roots.

As you grow older, the structures of your spine, such as the joints, discs and ligaments, age as well. The structures remain strong but its usual for your back to get stiffer as you get older.

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Understanding The Lower Back

The lower back is also called the lumbosacral area of the back. It is the part of the back between the bottom of the ribs and the top of the legs.

Most of the lower back is made up from muscles that attach to, and surround, the spine. The spine is made up of many bones called vertebrae. The vertebrae are roughly circular and between each vertebra is a disc. The discs between the vertebrae are a combination of a strong fibrous outer layer and a softer, gel-like centre. The discs act as shock absorbers and allow the spine to be flexible.

How To Relieve Back Pain

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The following tips may help reduce your back pain and speed up your recovery:

  • stay as active as possible and try to continue your daily activities this is 1 of the most important things you can do, as resting for long periods is likely to make the pain worse
  • try exercises and stretches for back pain other activities such as walking, swimming, yoga and pilates may also be helpful
  • take anti-inflammatory painkillers, such as ibuprofen remember to check the medicine is safe for you to take and ask a pharmacist if you’re not sure
  • use hot or cold compression packs for short-term relief you can buy these from a pharmacy, or a hot water bottle or a bag of frozen vegetables wrapped in a cloth or towel will work just as well

Although it can be difficult, it helps if you stay optimistic and recognise that your pain should get better. People who manage to stay positive despite their pain tend to recover quicker.

Back pain usually gets better on its own within a few weeks or months and you may not need to see a doctor or other healthcare professional.

But it’s a good idea to get help if:

  • the pain does not start to improve within a few weeks
  • the pain stops you doing your day-to-day activities
  • the pain is very severe or gets worse over time
  • you’re worried about the pain or struggling to cope

If you see a GP they will ask about your symptoms, examine your back and discuss possible treatments.

They may refer you to a specialist doctor or a physiotherapist for further help.

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What Can You Do If You Have Back Pain With Covid

Covid related back pain does get better by itself but you can help along with some gentle exercises. These are great.

Important: if you get out of breath ease up. Do fewer reps and for a shorter time.

If you want specific advice then book a video consultation with James, our physio.

During the day remember to change your posture regularly so you dont seize up in one position. As you improve you can do more exercises like walking or using resistance bands. You could also follow our home exercise videos.

If your back symptoms are worsening or not getting better after 4 weeks then make an appointment to see our chiropractors or physio and well assess you. If you have underlying joint locking or muscle spasm then these will need to be solved for the pain to go away.

Mels story is a composite of patient experiences to maintain confidentiality. Photo by mauro paillex on Unsplash

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.

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Back Pain Culprit: Your Bag

Although you may wear your purse, backpack, or briefcase over your shoulder, it is the lower back that supports the upper body — including any additional weight you carry. So an overstuffed bag can strain the lower back, especially if you carry it day after day. If you must tote a heavy load, consider switching to a wheeled briefcase.

The Big Three Signs That You Should Investigate For An Ominous Cause Of Persistent Low Back Pain

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You shouldnt worry about low back pain until three conditions have been met:

  • its been bothering you for more than about 6 weeks19
  • its severe and/or not improving, or actually getting worse
  • there is at least one other red flag
  • The presence of the big three does not confirm that something horrible is going on. It only means that you need to check carefully.

    Andy Whitfield as Spartacus

    At his physical peak, not long before getting sick. The first sign of his cancer was steadily worsening back pain. He may have already been in pain at this time.

    The story of actor Andy Whitfield is a disturbing and educational example of a case that met these conditions for sure the first two, and probably the third as well if we knew the details. Whitfield was the star of the hit TV show Spartacus . The first sign of the cancer that killed him in 2011 was steadily worsening back pain. Its always hard to diagnose a cancer that starts this way, but Whitfield was in the middle of intense physical training to look the part of historys most famous gladiator. Back pain didnt seem unusual at first, and some other symptoms may have been obscured. Weight loss could have even seemed like a training victory at first! It was many long months before he was diagnosed not until the back pain was severe and constant. A scan finally revealed a large tumour pressing against his spine.

    Is back pain a symptom of COVID-19?

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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.

    Wrong Type Of Mattress

    If you find your back aching every time you wake up in the middle of the night, your mattress might be the culprit. Does it have a deep depression in the shape of your body? Or does it feel like a bed of bricks? A mattress that is too soft as well as one that is too firm can prove problematic.

    Your long hours of sitting or standing or other activities like lifting or driving through the day affects the spine. When you sleep on a soft mattress, the lack of support to your spine leaves the body at an unnatural angle and prevents the tense muscles from relaxing, which increases the pain.

    On the other hand, sleeping on a firm mattress does help your spinal cord assume the right posture at rest. Research has found that a firm mattress reduces pain among patients with chronic non-specific lower back pain . However, if the mattress is too hard or uneven, it could result in back pain through the night.1

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    You’re Having Problems With Your Bowels Or Urination

    If your back pain is paired with a loss of control over your bowels or urination, then it’s time to seek help immediately at a local emergency room. These symptoms point to cauda equina syndrome, where the nerves in the lower spine have become paralyzed. While rare, this syndrome can be permanently damaging to the nerves if left untreated. If you experience these symptoms, especially accompanied by numbness in the legs, then you may need surgery to decompress the nerves and preserve their overall function.

    Can Lower Back Pain Be A Sign Of Something Serious Like Cancer

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    Lower back pain can be related to cancer. In fact, it is one of the first symptoms of prostate cancer when it metastasizes and creates lesions. Almost any cancer can spread to the back and some, like sarcoma, can originate in the back. Be cautious, especially if you are experiencing other symptoms besides lower back pain. Talk to your doctor if you have additional symptoms or concerns.

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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.

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    And the big one

    • Complete Guide to Low Back Pain Everything on one mighty page: an extremely detailed guide to the myths, controversies, the nature of the beast and the highlight dozens of detailed, evidence-based reviews of treatment and therapy options. This huge tutorial also focusses on a topic I think is neglected: the role of muscle in back pain.

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    What Should I Know About Back Pain

    Back pain is a very common problem and will affect many of us at some point during our lives.

    The good news is that in most cases it isnt a serious problem, and it might just be caused by a simple strain to a muscle or ligament.

    As far as possible, its best to continue with your normal everyday activities as soon as you can and to keep moving.

    Being active and exercising wont make your back pain worse, even if you have a bit of pain and discomfort at first. Staying active will help you get better. Taking painkillers can help you do this.

    How To Get Out Of Bed

    Can A BAD Mattress Cause Lower Back Pain?

    To get out of bed safely:

  • Roll onto your tummy and edge yourself towards the edge of the bed
  • Let the leg nearest the edge drop towards the floor and start to push up with your hands
  • Walk your hands down the bed towards your hips and raise yourself up
  • Carefully bring your other leg towards the floor and stand up
  • Alternatively:

  • Roll onto the side you feel most comfortable
  • Support your body with the arm closest to the bed and use your other arm to slowly start to raise yourself up
  • Carefully bring your other leg towards the floor and stand up
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    Common Causes Of Chronic Lower Back Pain

    “Chronic lower back pain is less likely to be caused by injury to your muscles and ligaments and more likely to be due to issues with the lumbar disks, nerves, joints or vertebrae,” says Dr. Palmer. “There are several potential causes of chronic pain in the lower back.”

    In general, osteoarthritis and degenerative disk disease are the underlying cause of many types of chronic lower back pain. However, lower back pain can also be caused by accident-related trauma and acute stress.

    You Have Unexplained Weight Loss

    If you experience sudden weight loss that can’t be explained by diet and lifestyle changes, then you should always pay attention to what your body is telling you. This is especially true when the unexplained weight loss is accompanied by back pain. See your doctor to rule out the possibility of a more severe condition, such as an infection or tumor.

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    All The Red Flags For Ominous Causes Of Back Pain

    Red flags are signs or symptoms that something medically ominous may be going on. Red flags are not reliable, and their presence is not a diagnosis. When you have some red flags, it only indicates a need to look more closely. Sometimes red flags are missing even when there really is something serious going on and sometimes they are a false alarm.24 Check off all that apply hopefully none or few or only the least alarming of them!

    Some of these red flags are much less red than others, especially depending on the circumstances. For instance, weight loss is common and often the sign of successful diet! Obviously, if you know of a harmless reason why you have a red flag symptom, it isnt really a red flag . But every single actual red flag in combination with severe low back pain thats been going on for several weeks is definitely a good reason to get yourself checked out.

    Most people who check off an item or two will turn out not to have an ominous cause for their low back pain. But why not check?

    Find Out How To Spot Red Flags That Can Indicate A Serious Condition

    9 Bad Habits That Cause Back Pain

    In many cases, back pain can be as commonplace as a mild headache, a sneeze here and there, or eye strain. In fact, non-specific low back pain is a frequent ailment. One study reports that the lifetime prevalence of chronic low back pain is as high as 84%, making ones chances of experiencing discomfort at one time or another pretty high.

    Here’s how to tell if your back pain may be something serious

    Then there are those other times, when the back pain just doesnt feel right and your gut is saying that something more is going on. Many people have been known to go to the emergency room when experiencing low back painin 2012, a study found that low back pain accounted for 3.15% of all emergency visits in the United States. When you consider how many conditions can land someone in the ER, that number is fairly substantial.

    Lets say that youre experiencing a significant amount of back pain, wondering, How do I know if my back pain is serious? This guide will help you decide if it warrants a trip to your doctor or the emergency room.

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