Range Of Lower Back Pain Symptoms
Low back pain can incorporate a wide variety of symptoms. It can be mild and merely annoying or it can be severe and debilitating. Low back pain may start suddenly, or it could start slowlypossibly coming and goingand gradually get worse over time.
Depending on the underlying cause of the pain, symptoms can be experienced in a variety of ways. For example:
- Pain that is dull or achy, contained to the low back
- Stinging, burning pain that moves from the low back to the backs of the thighs, sometimes into the lower legs or feet can include numbness or tingling
- Muscle spasms and tightness in the low back, pelvis, and hips
- Pain that worsens after prolonged sitting or standing
- Difficulty standing up straight, walking, or going from standing to sitting
In addition, symptoms of lower back pain are usually described by type of onset and duration:
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.
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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Treatment Options For Lower Back Pain
If your GP thinks there may be a specific cause for your back pain, they may refer you to a specialist to treat that specific condition.Usually, lower back pain gets better in a few days or weeks and often you can manage it yourself at home. For some advice about when to seek medical help, see our section on Symptoms.
Your physiotherapist or GP will probably encourage you to try self-help measures. They can also advise you on what exercises you can do to help your back. If the pain doesnt improve, then your GP can help with other options or may refer you to a specialist.
Acute Back Pain: Short
If your back pain is acute, it probably means your pain came along suddenly. Things like stress, strenuous exercise, an awkward movement or lifting something wrong can all contribute to acute back pain.
Most back pain is diagnosed as acute. With acute back pain, the pain lasts no longer than six weeks. And in most cases, the underlying cause of the pain doesnt pose a serious or long-term problem.
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Treatments For Back Pain From A Specialist
A GP, specialist or physiotherapist may recommend extra treatments if they do not think your pain will improve with self-help measures alone.
These may include:
- group exercise classes where you’re taught exercises to strengthen your muscles and improve your posture
- manual therapy treatments, such as manipulating the spine and massage, which are usually done by a physiotherapist, chiropractor or osteopath
- psychological support, such as cognitive behavioural therapy , which can be a useful part of treatment if you’re struggling to cope with pain
Some people choose to see a therapist for manual therapy without seeing a GP first. If you want to do this, you’ll usually need to pay for private treatment.
Surgery is generally only considered in the small number of cases where back pain is caused by a specific medical condition.
Strengthen Your Core And Glutes
From a position of neutral pelvic alignment, you can then properly do exercises that engage your core and glutes.
Heimann recommended wall squats and low bridges in which you bend your knees in front of you, and then raise the hips, keeping the pelvis in neutral and firming the glutes. Make sure not to pop the rib cage up, which will throw off your alignment.
You can then do variations on low bridge, like a one-legged bridge where one leg is straight and the other is bent, then switch. Heimann suggested holding each for a minute and doing it about four times a day. You could also lift and lower for 30 counts.
Planks are a good way to build core strength while keeping the spine in neutral alignment. Singh advised avoiding crunches or situps following back pain or an injury.
Planks are a great way to keep your core strong by engaging your transverse abdominis muscle, the most important core muscle, Singh said. They also engage the core without putting excess stress on either the disc or the joints and the muscles.
To properly execute a plank, put your forearms flat on a mat . Keep your back straight. Lift your head but leave your chin down, keeping your neck in line with your back. Hold for 30 seconds or up to a minute or two minutes, depending on your fitness level. There are several plank variations to try once you get the hang of it. Singh also recommends Supermans, a lotus yoga pose and a cat-cow yoga pose.
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Avoid This: Leg Lifts
Lying on your back while raising and lowering your straightened legs puts too much stress on your lower back. It also leaves you at risk for muscle strains. While this exercise may be recommended for core strength, you should choose something that is easier on your back.
Try This Instead: Reverse Curl-UpsReverse curl-ups target the same area as leg lifts, but arent as harsh on the back. To get in the starting position, lie on your back with your arms extended straight out to your sides, palms down and your knees raised, bent at a 90-degree angle with your feet off the floor. From there, slowly bring both knees into your chest, lifting your hips off the floor. Return to the starting position and repeat.
Back Muscles That Cause The Most Back Pain
Back pain is one of the top reasons for missed work and second only to upper-respiratory infections for causing doctor visits.
Most of the time, back muscle pain is diagnosed then treated with little more than a prescription of rest, painkillers and muscle relaxants.
Follow this advice and youre taking one more step down the path to more serious back pain and possibly doctor-recommended back surgery to deal with it.
And its all because youve never been told why you have back muscle pain or how to get lasting relief by treating the cause rather than the symptoms.
That all ends today as we pull back the covers and see exactly what is going on why your back hurts which muscles are behind your back pain and most importantly, what you can do about it .
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When To See A Doctor
People can often treat back pain with home remedies and some patience. However, a person should speak to a doctor about chronic or severe back pain.
A doctor may recommend physical therapy, medication, or other treatments. People who have existing health conditions or who take regular medications should speak to a doctor before trying any herbs or supplements.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration do not monitor supplements for purity or quality, so it is essential to research reputable companies first.
Avoid This: Overhead Weight Lifting
Although overhead weight lifting can strengthen the shoulders, it can also compress the spine. For this reason, its best to avoid lifting overhead, particularly with heavy weights.
Try This Instead: Lateral RaisesLateral raises strengthen the shoulders without putting stress on the back. Choose a pair of dumbbells that arent too heavy for you. Hold them in front of your, elbows slightly bent. Raise both arms up and out until theyre at shoulder height, then return to the starting position and repeat.
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What To Do About Lower Back Pain
It is prudent for you to visit your doctor if you have been experiencing recurring and persistent low back pain. The doctor will carry out examinations on you and recommend the right treatment procedure for you. There are two major treatment options for lower back pain. We have the surgical treatment and non surgical treatment options. Surgical treatment for lower back pain can only be carried out in severe cases with evidence of structural changes that require corrective surgical measures and where nerves are badly damaged or wearing out rapidly. Non surgical option is whereby the physician will try to alleviate the pain without any surgery. Non surgical treatment is administered in a number of ways which includes pain medication, application of heat or ice, manual manipulation, exercises and therapeutic massage.
Rehydrate And Rebuild Your Nutrient Stores
Make sure that you are drinking enough fluids as dehydration and loss of electrolytes affect the length and success of your recovery. Low blood calcium, magnesium and potassium levels can affect some people who suffer from spasms.
These levels will fall drastically during intense exercise and can contribute to the problem of muscle contractions. If you allow these conditions to become chronic, you end up with muscle imbalances which will put your back at risk again.
A very good friend of mine told me about her chronic nightmares of spasms and pain. She tried everything only to finally resolve them by increasing her calcium, magnesium and potassium levels adequately with a supplement. It didnt take long for her to feel a lot better. She said it was like night and day. Its definitely worth a try if you havent considered it yet?
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Home Treatment For Lower Back Pain
There are a number of at-home options to treat pain in your lower back:
- Relax. Sometimes just sitting down will relieve enough of the pressure from your lower back to reduce the pain significantly.
- Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs . These over-the-counter pain relievers include ibuprofen and naproxen . You can purchase NSAIDs here.
- Exercise and stretching. Although exercise is often good for addressing lower back pain, consult with a professional. Some exercises can make the pain worse. For example, avoid toe touches and situps, but try hamstring stretches. Generally getting into better physical health will help reduce lower back pain when standing and doing other everyday activities.
- Stand and sit up straight. Your posture is important for proper weight distribution. Standing and sitting up straight will help.
- Get supportive shoes and orthotics. Get shoes or shoe inserts that help keep your feet in a neutral, supported position.
- Mattress support. Find a mattress that gives you better support than your current one.
- Use heat and ice. As soon as the pain starts, put an ice pack on your lower back for 20 minutes several times a day. After 48 hours, alternate using ice and heat.
- Avoid heavy lifting. Avoid lifting heavy objects. If you must, keep your back straight and bend your legs so the leg muscles do the majority of the work.
- Lose weight. If youre overweight, getting to a healthy weight will improve strain on your back.
When Should I See My Healthcare Provider About Lower Back Pain
Lower back pain usually gets better with rest and pain relievers. Back pain that doesnt go away may be a sign of a more serious condition.
See your provider if you have:
- Pain that doesnt get better after about a week of at-home care.
- Tingling, numbness, weakness or pain in your buttocks or legs.
- Severe pain or muscle spasms that interfere with your normal activities.
- Fever, weight loss, bowel or bladder problems or other unexplained symptoms.
A note from Cleveland Clinic
Millions of people live with low back pain. Stiffness, pain and limited movement can have a major impact on quality of life. But you may be able to avoid lower back pain by maintaining a healthy weight and staying active. Talk to your provider if back pain doesnt go away or if youre unable to do the activities you enjoy. Several treatments can relieve pain, help you move better and get more out of life.
Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 01/18/2021.
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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 who are obese 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.
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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What If I Dont Want Surgery For My Back Pain
Fortunately, most people with back pain dont need surgery. We usually take a conservative approach first, using a wide variety of nonsurgical spine treatments, said Dr. Guo. For example, I might send you to physical therapy or chiropractic therapy. I might recommend medications such as anti-inflammatories, muscle relaxants, or some nerve-pain medications. We offer injection therapy, including epidural injections, joint injections, and nerve blocks and ablation if your back pain fails to improve with the conservative treatments. Chances are, one of these approaches will help reduce your back pain and improve your function and quality of life.
What Is The Outlook For People With Lower Back Pain
The outlook depends on the cause of pain. Most people with back strains and sprains recover and do not have long-term health issues. But many people will have another episode within a year.
Some people have chronic back pain that doesnt get better after several weeks. Older people with degenerative conditions such as arthritis and osteoporosis may have symptoms that get worse over time. Surgery and other treatments are effective at helping people with a range of injuries and conditions live pain-free.
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Answers To Common Back Pain Questions
More than eight in 10 people will experience upper, mid, or low back pain at some point in their lives. Low back pain is the most common back pain. In most cases, the pain goes away over time. If your back pain is severe or does not improve, you may need medical care. Here are answers to some common questions about back pain and tips on when to seek help.
One Back Pain Treatment You Probably Dont Need
Back pain can be incredibly frustrating, and going under the knife may seem like the quickest, easiest fix to bring relief. But the truth is, many people dont need surgery for lower back pain management, Dr. Park says.
If your back pain is musculoskeletal, you will not require surgery, but if its a pinched nerve thats due to a disc herniation or something else, you may need to have surgery, he says. But even in those people, when you go through a six-to-eight-week course of treatment that includes physical therapy and activity modification, 85 to 90 percent of the time, they wont need surgery.
However, if you try the treatments above and dont see any improvement or still feel pain, talk to your doctor about a referral to a pain management specialist, as more specific tests or treatments may be required to get to the bottom of whats going on.
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