Prevention Of Lower Back Pain
Looking after your back can help to reduce your risk of getting back pain. It can help to do the following.
- Get plenty of exercise. Keeping active with regular exercise can help to prevent back pain coming back, or reduce your risk of getting it in the first place.
- Take care with lifting and carrying heavy items. Dont lift or carry more than you can manage, and make sure youre using the right technique. This means slightly bending your back, knees and hips when lifting, rather than stooping from your back.
- Keep a good posture. If you work at a desk, make sure your chair, desk and computer screen are set up correctly. Your employer should be able to assess your workstation.
- Move regularly dont sit in the same position for long periods of time.
When Is Back Surgery Needed
The decision to consider back surgery should always come after trying nonsurgical or “conservative” options. There are exceptions. For example, if a person has back pain and progressive weakening in one or both legs or loses control of bladder or bowel function, prompt surgical intervention may be necessary.
Most often acute back pain will resolve after 6 to 8 weeks. So, its usually best to be patient and give nonsurgical options time to work. Even if the discomfort persists, surgery is most likely to be successful when the persons pain clearly correlates to abnormal findings on an imaging test like an MRI.
However, imaging tests often show abnormal changes that have nothing to do with the pain. Thats when surgery is unlikely to help and perhaps offers no relief, as well as risking complications.
When conservative measures have not provided sufficient pain relief for a herniated disc causing persistent sciatica or spinal stenosis, you and your doctor might consider surgery. The procedures back surgeons perform most often are discectomy and laminectomy.
In a discectomy, the surgeon removes part of a herniated disc, which occurs when a disc ruptures and its jelly-like center leaks, irritating nearby nerves.
Laminectomy alone is usually just as effective as spinal fusion, and so is the preferred option when possible to help relieve lower back pain.
Common Causes Of Back Pain
Between 60-80 percent of adults in the United States will experience neck spine and back pain at some point in their lives. Back pain is one of the most common medical conditions reported in the U.S. and you are likely to experience it at some point in your life. This type of pain is typically a symptom of some other medical condition and can have many causes.
Here are seven common causes of a sore aching or painful back:
1. Pulled muscle or tendon
Lifting boxes or heavy objects working out and even sleeping in an awkward position can lead to a sore back. Often this means that you may have strained or sprained one of the many muscles and tendons in your back. Back pain from a pulled muscle or ligament can sometimes cause tightness and spasms.
Inflammation is part of your bodys natural immune response but can still cause discomfort heat and pain. If inflammation lingers because of an injury or disease it can cause chronic soreness in your back and spine.
More than 52 million adults suffer from the stiffness and pain of arthritis. Arthritis is a type of chronic inflammation that can affect joints throughout your body including your back. Arthritis pain is often associated with stiffness and swelling.
Osteoporosis is a disease that causes bone mass to decrease especially in the hip wrist and spine. This decreased mass makes bones weaker and can lead to painful fractures.
5. Injured herniated and ruptured discs
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When Can I Get Back To My Normal Activities
Talk to your healthcare provider about a timeline regarding when you can get back to daily activities. You may need to take time off work to rest, or you may be able to go as long as you follow your providers recommended treatments. Dont guess about when youll be ready confirm it with your provider.
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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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.
Why Is Lower Back Pain Such A Common Problem
The bottom part of your back typically has just five vertebrae fewer than your neck and mid-back. And these vertebrae do a lot of heavy lifting! Your lower back is where your spine connects to your pelvis, bearing the weight of your upper body. This area experiences a lot of movement and stress, which may lead to wear, tear and injuries.
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Low Back Pain Diagnosis
Getting diagnosed with a specific cause of low back pain is the first step to getting treatment. If you land in your doctors office hoping for back pain relief, theyll use a variety of diagnostic tools and methods, such as:
A thorough medical history including any recent injuries, other diagnoses, family history of disease, and your job, activities and other lifestyle considerations
Physical exams, which may include manipulating the painful area or reflex or other neurological tests
Electromyography, which measures muscle and nerve function
ImagingX-rays can show bone spurs and damage to bone, while CT scans and MRIs can depict damage to soft tissue like discs or ligaments
Muscle Strain Or Sprain
A muscle strain or sprain is the most common cause of low back pain.
A strain is a tear or stretching in a tendon or muscle, while a sprain is a tear or stretching in a ligament.
Sprains and strains usually happen when you twist or lift something improperly, lift something heavy, or overstretch your back muscles.
These injuries can cause swelling, difficulty moving, and back spasms.
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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.
What Are Back Spasms
A spasm is when your muscles suddenly and against your will. They may painfully twinge, seize or contract. The muscles in your upper, middle and lower back are divided into three types: intrinsic/deep muscles, superficial muscles and intermediate muscles. Lower back spasms are more common, but any muscle can contract.
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When Is Back Pain An Emergency
- The pain is sudden and severe.
- You have pain and you cant control your bowels or urine, or have nausea, fever or vomiting.
- Your pain is so severe that you cant go about your daily activities.
A note from Cleveland Clinic
Back paincan be very frustrating and interrupt your daily life. There are many treatment options to help your back pain and get back to daily activities. See your healthcare provider to discuss your options. They’re there to help.
Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 02/03/2022.
When To Call A Doctor
Consult your doctor if you have back pain thats intense, worrisome, or that doesnt go away with self-care measures. Its also important to call your doctor if your lower back pain is making it hard for you to go about your daily activities.
Most cases of lower back pain on the right side are not medical emergencies. However, dont hesitate to get immediate medical help if you experience back pain thats accompanied by any of the following symptoms:
- loss of bladder or bowel function
- sudden, severe pain
- weakness or loss of sensation in your lower body
- pain accompanied by fever, clammy skin, a rapid heart rate, nausea, vomiting, or any other concerning symptoms
The appropriate treatment for lower back pain emergencies depends on the cause. If the source of the pain isnt obvious, you may need one or more of the following screenings to determine the right course of action:
- an MRI to check your spinal cord, nerve roots, and other soft tissue
- an X-ray to look at your spine and other joints for signs of fracture or other concerns
- blood tests to check for markers of inflammation
If nerve or muscle problems are the cause of lower back on the right, epidural injections of corticosteroids may be necessary if the pain and loss of mobility and function are severe.
If appendicitis is diagnosed and it cant be managed by antibiotics, then emergency surgery to remove the appendix may be necessary.
- nerve compression in your spine
- disc degeneration
- an abdominal aortic aneurysm
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Burning Back Pain Causes
Burning back pain causes due to spinal problems: Our spines are comprised of several intervertebral discs that sit in between the vertebral bones. These discs can become damaged due to degeneration or injury. When one of these discs bulges out from its normal position, it is called a disc herniation and can lead to back pain. The lower back, also called the lumbar region, is considered more vulnerable to degeneration, injuries, and other disorders. This is thought to be because this area is more heavily stresses during the day and is highly involved during activates such as lifting heavy weights and sports.
Burning back pain causes due to skeletal defect: The shape of the spine affects your posture. The spine was subject to skeletal or bony deformities that could have a negative effect on our posture, leading to the development of back pain. Conditions such as scoliosis, kyphosis, or lordosis can change spinal musculature and even compress spinal nerves, resulting in burning back pain.
Burning back pain causes due to muscle spasms and strains: Overstretching, tearing, or injuries to the muscles in the back can result in a sudden spasm or strain. These typically occur when lifting heavy objects or during sudden movements that strain muscle beyond their normal range. Repeated strain or injury of the back can cause its muscles to become weak over time, making them more vulnerable to spasms.
How To Determine The Cause Of Lower Back Pain
This article was co-authored by Jarod Carter, DPT, CMT. Jarod Carter is a Physical Therapist, Consultant, and the Owner of Carter Physiotherapy, a manual physical therapy clinic in Austin, Texas focused on manual therapy as well as telehealth services to resolve pain and injuries. Dr. Carter has over 15 years of professional physical therapy experience. He received a DPT and an MTC from the University of St. Augustine for Health Sciences. Dr. Carter also holds a BS in Kinesiology from the University of Texas at Austin.There are 18 references cited in this article, which can be found at the bottom of the page. This article has been viewed 27,946 times.
Lower back pain has a wide variety of causes. If you are experiencing lower back pain, you may have a degenerative condition, such as arthritis, or an acute injury, such as a fracture. Each condition has its own set of symptoms, so you may be able to rule out certain conditions by paying careful attention to your symptoms. If your pain persists, it’s best to see a doctor for an official diagnosis.
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Why Back Pain Requires A Team Approach To Care
Whether back pain requires surgery or is manageable with conservative treatment, its important to see a spine specialist for diagnosis and care. The doctors at our Spine Center work as a team with experts in nerve, muscle, and bone conditions, as well as nurses and physical therapists who work closely with patients to manage symptoms and reduce the risk of recurrence.
Each week, our multidisciplinary team meets to discuss challenging cases and educate each other on the latest research and techniques. Together, we see a range of patients with complex medical needs. For example, if a patient with a spinal infection is taking a medication that suppresses the immune system, such as immunotherapy for cancer, we work together to find an effective treatment that is safe for their unique needs.
How Is Back Pain Treated
You can do several things to manage back pain. A conversation with your doctor or physiotherapist can help address any concerns you may have and help you to better understand your treatment. Remember that not all information is trustworthy, so let your healthcare team know about treatments you are considering before you begin them.
Ways to manage back pain include the following:
Strong pain medication is not recommended for back pain. Research shows strong pain medication provides little benefit and can cause side effects such as drowsiness, sedation and/or dependence.
If you have severe back pain and your current medication is not adequately managing it, talk to your doctor about a suitable treatment plan. In some cases, your doctor may suggest an injection that can numb the pain such as an epidural injection, or a surgical procedure, such as a laminectomy to help manage your pain.
There are many other treatments to manage back pain, but they have not been well proven. These include:
- herbal medicines
- heat and cold therapy
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About Lower Back Pain
Lower back pain is pain in the area of your back from the bottom of your ribs to the top of your legs. It can come from any of the many structures that make up your back. These include bones, joints, muscles, ligaments, nerves and tendons.
Your spine supports your back. Its made up of 24 separate bones called vertebrae stacked on top of one another. The lower section of your spine is called the lumbar spine. Below the vertebrae, at the bottom of your spine, are bones called your sacrum and coccyx. You may hear lower back pain referred to as lumbosacral pain.
Discs of cartilage sit between each vertebra, acting as shock absorbers and allowing your spine to bend. Some lower back pain originates from these discs. Your spinal cord threads through the vertebrae, carrying nerve signals between your brain and the rest of your body. If nerves at the base of your spine become compressed or inflamed, it can cause sciatica. Sciatica is a type of pain that starts in your back or buttocks and spreads down your leg.
Its usually difficult for doctors to say exactly whats causing back pain. This is because there are so many different parts to your back and tissues that surround it. Even tests such as X-rays and magnetic resonance imaging scans arent helpful for most people.
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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