Concerned About Your Back Pain Symptoms We Can Help
Most back pain goes away on its own. But if your back pain has been lingering for more than two weeks without improvement, its been coming and going for some time, or if youre experiencing any alarming symptoms, dont delay the care you need. After all, its much easier to take care of yourself when you can move without pain.
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How Common Is Lower Back Pain
Around four out of five people have lower back pain at some point in their lives. Its one of the most common reasons people visit healthcare providers.
Some people are more likely to have lower back pain than others. Risk factors for lower back pain include:
- Age: People over 30 have more back pain. Disks wear away with age. As the disks weaken and wear down, pain and stiffness can result.
- Weight: People have overweight/obesity or carry extra weight are more likely to have back pain. Excess weight puts pressure on joints and disks.
- Overall health: Weakened abdominal muscles cant support the spine, which can lead to back strains and sprains. People who smoke, drink alcohol excessively or live a sedentary lifestyle have a higher risk of back pain.
- Occupation and lifestyle: Jobs and activities that require heavy lifting or bending can increase the risk of a back injury.
- Structural problems: Severe back pain can result from conditions, such as scoliosis, that change spine alignment.
- Disease: People who have a family history of osteoarthritis, certain types of cancer and other disease have a higher risk of low back pain.
- Mental health: Back pain can result from depression and anxiety.
Mechanical Lower Back Pain
Because it represents 97% of cases, mechanical low back pain deserves to be discussed first. To determine the factors that bring out the pain, the doctor will consider the following causes of mechanical low back pain:
- Spondylolisthesis .
- Osteoarthritis .
- Spinal stenosis .
Low back pain that gets worse with sitting may indicate a herniated lumbar disc . This is because certain positions of the body can change the amount of pressure that an out-of-place disc can press on a nerve. This is one reason we suggest to people with low back pain to periodically get up and stretch or walk around rather than continually stay sitting. Acute onset, that is, pain that comes on suddenly, may suggest a herniated disc or a muscle strain, as opposed to a more gradual onset of pain, which fits more with osteoarthritis, spinal stenosis, or spondylolisthesis.
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Could A Health Condition I Have Be To Blame
Lower back pain can also be caused by other things that are going on in your body.
Pregnancy: All that weight out front can put a real strain on your back.
Tumors: They usually donât start in the back, but are part of the spread of a cancer in the spine that started somewhere else in your body.
Infections: Osteomyelitis, discitis, and septic sacroiliitis are uncommon infections that affect the bones, discs, and joints of the spine. Any one of these can cause pain in your lower back. Kidney infections can also cause your back to feel the brunt.
Other issues: Low back pain can also happen because of things like:
- Endometriosis, a buildup of uterine tissue outside the uterus
- Fibromyalgia, a condition that causes widespread muscle pain
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Range Of Symptoms That May Accompany Sharp Pain The Lower Back
Acute pain in your lower back may be limited to one or both sides. You may also feel that the pain originates from a particular spot on the left or right side of your lower back. Sharp lower back pain typically includes one or more of the following symptoms and characteristics:
- Severe lower back pain is typically associated with increased tension and spasm in the surrounding muscles, causing stiffness and a decreased range of motion.
- Radiate through nerves. If your lower back problem originates from your spinal nerve roots, a shooting pain may radiate into your leg through the affected nerve.
- Cause neurologic deficits. Lower back pain that is caused by irritation or compression of nerves may be associated with neurologic symptoms, such as numbness, tingling, a pins-and-needles sensation, and a general feeling of weakness in the leg.
These symptoms may be aggravated or relieved by specific postures or activities, such as sitting, standing, walking, and lying down. While spinal pain typically resolves in a few days to weeks, the symptoms can become debilitating, significantly affecting your daily activities.
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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 Is A Pinched Nerve In The Back Diagnosed
Your doctor will first ask you about your symptoms. Its important to provide as many details as you can, such as how long youve been experiencing pain and discomfort, how its affecting your quality of life, and whether youve recently experienced any recent injuries.
Next, your doctor will look for physical signs of trauma or other issues in your low back by checking for possible:
- limited range of motion
- changes to reflexes in your legs
- weakness in the muscles
- changes in sensation in the lower extremities
Your doctor may not be able to diagnose the pinched nerve from a physical examination alone. Additionally, they may want to know more about the cause of the pinched nerve.
They may order the following tests to get more information:
- X-ray:shows the bones in your vertebrae
- MRI:shows your soft tissues, including the discs in your vertebrae, your spinal cord, and the nerves in your lower back
- CT scan:shows a very detailed picture of your lower back and can be used to evaluate bony structures and muscles
Such imaging tests are typically ordered in the case of long-term symptoms only. For example, doctors may not order imaging tests for sciatica unless symptoms last for
- physical therapy
- other lifestyle adjustments
Sometimes your doctor will need to treat the pinched nerve with more invasive measures, such as spinal injections or surgery.
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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 Disk In The Lower Back
A herniated, ruptured, or “slipped” disc means that a vertebral disc one of the soft pads of tissue that sit between each of the vertebral bones has becomes squeezed out of shape. Its cushioning material has been forced against, and possibly through, the ring of fibrous tissue that normally contains it. This causes pain, numbness, and weakness in the legs.
The normal aging process causes the discs lose moisture and become thinner, making them more vulnerable to “slipping.”
Most susceptible are men from ages 30 to 50. Smoking, obesity, lack of exercise, and improper lifting are also risk factors.
Symptoms include pain, weakness, numbness, and tingling in the back, leg, and foot.
Diagnosis is made through patient history, neurological examination, and MRI scan.
Treatment begins with rest, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, physical therapy, and sometimes epidural steroid injections into the back to ease pain and inflammation.
Surgery to remove the herniated part of the disc the part that was squeezed out of place can also be helpful.
Top Symptoms: lower back pain, moderate back pain, back pain that shoots down the leg, back pain that gets worse when sitting, leg weakness
Urgency: Primary care doctor
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Surgery For Lower Back Pain
Because the vast majority of patients recover from their low back pain with little help from a doctor, the rationale behind choosing surgery must be convincing. Eighty percent of patients with sciatica recover eventually without surgery.
Severe progressive nerve problems, bowel or bladder dysfunction and the cauda equina syndrome make up the most clear-cut indications for back surgery. Back surgery will also be considered if the patients signs and symptoms correlate well with studies such as MRI or electromyogram .
In the most serious cases, when the condition does not respond to other therapies, surgery may well be necessary to relieve pain caused by back problems. Some common procedures include:
- , such as a or removal of a portion of a
- a bone graft that promotes the vertebrae to fuse together
- removal of the lamina to create more space and reduce irritation and inflammation
When To See Your Gp
You should speak to your GP as soon as possible if you have back pain and:
- find it difficult to pass or control urine
- feel numbness or altered sensation around your back passage or genitals – such as wiping after the toilet
- have pins and needles around your back passage or genitals – such as wiping after the toilet
If your GP surgery is closed, phone 111.
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How Can You Tell The Difference Between Muscle Pain And Bone Pain
Bone pain usually feels deeper, sharper, and more intense than muscle pain. Muscle pain also feels more generalized throughout the body and tends to ease within a day or two, while bone pain is more focused and lasts longer. Bone pain is also less common than joint or muscle pain, and should always be taken seriously.
Treatment Options For Acute Lower Back Pain
Most low back pain is due to muscle strain and spasm and does not require surgery. To treat the pain, medications such as acetaminophen , nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory agents , gabapentin or pregabalin can be used. NSAIDs suppress inflammation, pain and fever by inhibiting certain inflammation-causing chemicals in the body. Acetaminophen reduces pain and fever, but does not inhibit inflammation. Gabapentin and pregabalin, medications that have been used for antiseizure activity, also have the ability to block pain. Opioids provide pain relief and may at times be prescribed to manage severe back pain. However, opioids have many problems, such as habituation, constipation and lightheadedness, and are avoided when possible and used for the shortest possible duration. Epidural injection is an option if the back pain does not respond to these treatments. Each person is different in terms of response to medication.
Other nonsurgical treatments for lower back pain include Intradiscal electrothermal therapy , nucleoplasty, and radiofrequency lesioning.
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Can Lower Back Pain Be A Sign Of Something Serious Like Cancer
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.
What Treatments Are Available
Healing begins with self-care and nonsurgical strategies . The goal is to correct the problem, restore function, and prevent re-injury.
Self care: Sciatica often resolves with rest, ice or heat, massage, pain relievers, and gentle stretches. Reduce muscle inflammation and pain using an ice pack for 20 minutes several times a day during the first 48 to 72 hours. Thereafter, a warm shower or heating pad on low setting may be added to relax the muscles. A short period of bed rest is okay, but more than a couple of days does more harm than good. If self-care treatments aren’t working within the first couple of days, see your doctor. .
Medication: Over-the-counter nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs , such as aspirin, ibuprofen or naproxen, can bring relief. A muscle relaxant may be prescribed for spasms. If pain is severe, an analgesic may be prescribed that can be taken with the NSAID or muscle relaxant.
Steroids can reduce the swelling and inflammation of the nerves. They are taken orally tapered over a five-day period or by injection directly into the painful area . Steroids may provide immediate pain relief within 24 hours.
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Your Legs Dont Go Toe
About 1 in 3 of us have legs that arent exactly the same length, says Ryan Enke, M.D., a physical medicine and rehabilitation specialist in Rockford, Illinois. Often its something people are born with, although injuries or arthritis can cause one leg to become shorter.
A difference in leg length alters the normal biomechanics of walking or standing, Enke says. That puts unequal stress or strain on one side of the body versus the other. The solution may be as simple as adding a lift into the shoe on the shorter side, but physical therapy can help, he notes.
What Do Sharp Pains In The Lower Back Mean
The quick answer is that sharp pains in the lower back mean that you probably have inflammation or an injury. Sharp pain is typically a symptom with there is a new issue that is very irritated. This can happen after a traumatic injury.
Sharp pain in the lower back may also happen due to muscle spasms. When there is irritation in a structure in the lower back, it is common to have muscle spasms around the area. The body triggers the muscle spasm as a protective response. But, spasms hurt!
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Can Lower Back Pain Be Related To Weather
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.
You’ve Been In Pain For Over A Week
Most back pain will subside after a few days, but if you’ve been experiencing pain for over a week, then it’s time to call a doctor. Your doctor will perform any examinations or tests required to help get to the bottom of your pain before it could become a bigger problem. As is the case with many health conditions, prevention and addressing problems early is key.
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