How Is It Diagnosed
Diagnosis comes through several options which are usually done in combination for a more accurate diagnosis. Your doctor will start with a physical exam which may include pressing in the area of your hip or your buttocks and moving your legs.
In order to identify that the pain in in your sacroiliac joint and not somewhere else in your lower back, your doctor may decide inject a numbing medication directly into the joint. However, this is not always an accurate test since the medication can spread to other areas.
You doctor might also send you for an X-ray to confirm. An MRI might be used if your doctor thinks you might have ankylosing spondylitis.
Sharp Lower Left Back Pain From Spinal Stenosis
Spinal Stenosis occurs when the sensitive spinal nerve roots become compressed. While the majority of affected patients are over the age of 50, degenerative changes can cause younger patients to develop this painful condition. These changes may include trauma, a congenital spinal deformity like scoliosis, or even a genetic disease affecting bone and muscle development. Spinal Stenosis symptoms tend to fluctuate between patients, ranging from mild and manageable pain, numbness or tingling in the extremities from pinched nerves, sharp lower left back pain, and a limited range of mobility. Since symptoms of spinal stenosis are so similar to symptoms of other spinal conditions, it can be difficult to properly diagnose this painful condition. But the NJSS team can deploy advanced imaging tests like an MRI, CT, and X-rays to identify the location of the narrowing spine. Spinal Stenosis can manifest as the result of other conditions such as wear and tear damage from osteoarthritis, complications from spinal injuries, and abnormal growths on the spinal cord and within vertebrae.
When You Should Go To The Er For Back Pain
If your back pain is accompanied by any of the following symptoms, head to your closest emergency room because you could be dealing with a more serious condition or injury:
- Sudden spike in pain, discomfort, weakness or numbness
- Loss of bladder function
- Unexplainable weight loss
- The pain results from a fall or severe blow to your back
If you experience any of these symptoms, its a good idea to talk to your doctor so you can determine next steps for managing pain.
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Causes Of Lower Left Back Pain While Breathing
Scoliosis, kyphosis, and other conditions that affect your spine can cause back pain and breathing issues.
- Scoliosis – a common condition among pre-teens and teenagers , scoliosis is the result of your spine curving to the side. The most severe cases of scoliosis cause the curvature to place extra pressure on the lungs. This might make breathing harder, even painful for the patient.
- Kyphosis – this condition happens when the spine curves forward, resulting in a hunched position. Common causes of kyphosis are spinal injury and aging. Aside from back pain, you will also experience swelling and balance difficulties. Severe cases of kyphosis can make breathing and eating more difficult or at least uncomfortable.
What Can I Do For Low Back Pain At Home
If your lower back pain has just started, the best thing you can do is start a log. Record your symptoms, times, dates and which activities trigger the pain or make it worse or better. Take this information to your family physician if the pain doesnt resolve on its own. It will make diagnosing the cause much easier.
Once you know which motion or position causes your lower back pain, try to avoid it and see if you get better. Icing the painful spot can also help. And so can over-the-counter pain relievers that help reduce inflammation. Just remember that pain killers treat only the symptom pain and not its cause.
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When Does A Lower Back Pain Require Medical Attention
However, there are certain lower back pains that cant be remedied by time and over-the-counter medications. You need to see your doctor if your pain doesnt get better after a few weeks and/or theres tingling, weakness, and numbness, especially in your legs. The same goes for sudden andsevere pain as well. Other red flags include difficulties in urinating, fever, unexplained weight loss, and bowel control issues.
Diagnosing Lower Back Pain
To diagnose lower back pain, a doctor will first do a physical exam. Theyll look at how well you move and if your back has any visible issues.
Then theyll take a medical history. This will cover your symptoms, any recent injuries, previous back issues, and the severity of your pain.
A physical exam and medical history are often enough for a doctor to determine the cause of your pain. However, they may also need to do an imaging test. Potential tests include:
- X-ray, which can find broken or misaligned bones.
- CT scan, which shows soft tissues such as the discs between vertebrae and potential tumors
- myelogram, which uses dye to enhance the contrast in a CT scan or X-ray to help a doctor identify nerve or spinal cord compression
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The Worst Back Pain Is Rarely The Scariest
People understandably assume that the worst back pain is the scariest. In fact, pain intensity is a poor indicator of back pain ominousness,10 and some of the worst causes are actually the least painful . For instance, someone could experience the symptoms of cauda equinae syndrome, and be in real danger of a serious and permanent injury to their spine, but have surprisingly little pain even none at all in some cases!
Meanwhile, many non-dangerous problems can cause amazingly severe back pain. A muscle cramp is a good analogy just think about how painful a Charley horse is! Regardless of whats actually going on in there, muscle pain is probably the main thing that back pain patients are feeling. The phenomenon of trigger points tiny muscle cramps, basically11 could be the entire problem, or a complication thats more painful and persistent than the original problem. Its hard to overstate how painful trigger points can be, but they are not dangerous to anything but your comfort.
Skeletal Disease Or Injury
Skeletal disease or injury affecting the nerves on the right side of the back can lead to pain.
- Cartilage deterioration: This is wearing away of the cartilage at the ends of the bones, due to either age or disease.
- Bony growths: Small overgrowths of bones in the spine may crowd the spinal cord and cause pain and numbness or pinch other nearby structures. A general narrowing of the spinal canal is known as spinal stenosis.
- Scar tissue: This may form due to injury or the result of spinal surgery.
- Injury or disease of the discs: These are the “cushions” between each of the spinal vertebrae. A disc may be partly pushed out of place, causing pressure on a nerve. A disc may also rupture and lose some of its contents, causing pain and pressure on the surrounding nerves .
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What Are The Odds That Your Back Pain Is A Serious Condition
Yes, there are cases in which lower back pain does have alarming causes and requires immediate hospital treatment, but its not as common as you think. The odds of your condition turning out to be an infection, autoimmune disease, or worse, cancer is lower than normally assumed. About one in 20 cases of lower back pain turn out to be a fracture for those over the age of 55. So the further you are from this age, the better your odds that your lower back pain is something more manageable.
But of course, your doctors would like to keep it safe and advise you to have your unusual symptoms checked out for your own peace of mind as well. Its better to have the worst-case scenarios ruled out so you can manage your pain better without having to worry about dying soon.
Speaking of peace of mind, New York Pain Care can help pinpoint exactly whats causing your back pain, from muscle strain and other pain concerns, such as pinched nerve, nerve compression, piriformis syndrome, facet joints pain, gluteus medius pain, sciatic pain or sciatica pain, or SI joint pain.
You will certainly be in nothing less than in good hands with our top-rated board-certified spine and pain specialists. Our wide range of services includes interventional spine & pain, physical therapy, sports medicine, podiatry, and acupuncture. – just tell us where it hurts and we will find ways to make the pain go away.
Muscle Strain: The Most Common Cause
Following a slip on the ice, a night of sleeping in a contorted position, or perhaps after swinging a golf club, you may feel a sharp pain in the lower left side of your back. This pain is likely from an overstretched or torn muscle, and this kind of injury is known as a muscle strain.
See Pulled Back Muscle and Lower Back Strain
A muscle strain is the most common cause of lower left back pain, so your doctor will likely want to begin the diagnosis process by testing for this type of injury. She or he will ask for a comprehensive medical history, and then may perform a physical examination to check for the following:
- Localized tenderness
- A defect that signals a rupture in the muscle
- Discomfort during range of motion exercises
- Muscle weakness
While your pain may be severe, the silver lining is that lower left back pain caused by muscle strain will typically clear up in a few days .
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Low Back Pain Symptoms And Signs
Pain in the lumbosacral area is the primary symptom of low back pain.
- The pain may radiate down the front, side, or back of your leg, or it may be confined to the low back.
- The pain may become worse with activity.
- Occasionally, the pain may be worse at night or with prolonged sitting such as on a long car trip.
- You may have numbness or weakness in the part of the leg that receives its nerve supply from a compressed nerve.
- This can cause an inability to plantar flex the foot. This means you would be unable to stand on your toes or bring your foot downward. This occurs when the first sacral nerve is compressed or injured.
- Another example would be the inability to raise your big toe upward. This results when the fifth lumbar nerve is compromised.
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
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Xi When Are Certain Diagnostic Tests Necessary
There is concern within the medical community that high-tech imaging methods, such as CT scan and MRI, are overused for acute low back pain. Often, these sensitive imaging techniques reveal asymptomatic abnormalities in the lumbar spine that are not the cause of the patients pain. In one study, volunteers with no history of back pain were given MRIs and 90% of those over age 60 had degenerative disc disease. MRIs that show abnormalities in the lumbar region that cause no symptoms for the patient are not helpful.
All Of The Worst Possible Causes Of Back Pain And Their Major Features
None of these are common. All of them usually cause serious symptoms that are easy to take seriously. Some of them can fly under the radar in early stages, but usually not for long. The names of the conditions link to carefully chosen articles from good sources.
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Finucane LM, Downie A, Mercer C,et al. International Framework for Red Flags for Potential Serious Spinal Pathologies. J Orthop Sports Phys Ther. 2020 Jul 50:350372. PubMed #32438853
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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.
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.
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What Is Left Lower Quadrant Pain
Pain in the lower left side of the abdomen is called left lower quadrant pain. It is often related to the digestive tract, but can also be related to conditions of the body wall, skin, blood vessels, urinary tract, or reproductive organs. The area may be tender to the touch or the pain may be severe and the whole abdomen might be rigid.
Severe pain can be a symptom of inflammation of the bowel or bowel obstruction, particularly if is present. Severe pain in women may result from twisting of an ovary , rupture of an ovarian cyst, ectopic , or pelvic inflammatory disease. Men may experience severe left lower quadrant pain from or injury. Crampy pain may be due to gas, , inflammation or infection, or it may result from menstrual cramps, , or pelvic inflammatory disease in women.
Severe pain that comes in waves may be caused by kidney stones. Trauma to the body wall, hernias, and shingles can also cause left lower quadrant pain. A is a weakening of muscle or tissue that allows organs or other tissues to protrude through it. Shingles is a reactivation of the chickenpox virus involving a painful, blistering rash that usually occurs on only one side of the body.
Pain that is sudden in onset, severe, persistent, recurring, or worsening, or that is accompanied by other serious symptoms is typically the most worrisome.
When Back Pain Is A Symptom Of Lung Cancer
It is not uncommon for people to experience back pain with lung cancer or even to have back pain as their first symptom. While it may seem an unusual associationlinking the back to the lungsthere are defining features that are as telling as they are unique. Chief among them are the location and types of pain experienced, which may be quite different from your typical, chronic backache.
All told, around 25% of people with lung cancer will report back pain as a symptom at some point in their disease.
Verywell / Hugo Lin
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Urinary Or Kidney Infections
A urinary infection or an infection of the left kidney may cause constant, stabbing pain that can radiate through the lower left side of the back. Symptoms such as burning, itching, or pain while urinating, chills, or a fever, indicate the presence of a possible infection. These types of symptoms warrant an examination by a doctor.
Lower Back Pain Causes: 8 Reasons For Sudden & Chronic Pain
Sometimes, you know exactly why your back is hurting. Maybe you lifted something awkwardly and felt the pain right away. Or maybe your doctor has been warning you for years that your bad posture would lead to lower back pain.
But other times, the source of back pain can feel like a mystery.
“Your lumbar spine, located in your lower back, plays a crucial role in supporting the weight of your upper body. It’s also responsible for everyday movements, such as bending, twisting and coordinating the muscles in your hips, pelvis legs and feet,” says Dr. Kenneth Palmer, orthopedic surgeon specializing in spine surgery at Houston Methodist. “Due to heavy use, the bones, muscles, ligaments, disks and nerves found in your lumbar spine are quite susceptible to both injury and wear and tear over time causing pain in the lower back.”
Lower back pain symptoms include:
- Dull ache in your hips and/or pelvis
- Muscle spasms or tightness
- Sharp, tingling pain that starts in your lower back and travels down one leg
- Pain that worsens with sitting and quickly improves while walking
- Pain that is noticeably worse in the morning
“Typically, a person experiences some combination of these symptoms, which can develop suddenly or over time. In some cases, lower back pain can feel like it comes and goes flaring up now and then, but generally getting progressively worse over time,” explains Dr. Palmer.
Speaking of the various causes of lower back pain…
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