Other Causes Of Mechanical Back Pain
There are many other causes of mechanical back pain, including poor sleep, too little physical activity and even depression or low mood can play a part.
One of the other common causes of back pain when walking is called spinal stenosis. This type of problem might also cause the pain in your back to spread down into your buttocks and sometimes even to your calves as you continue to walk.
This pain is often described to us as back ache, which then progresses to a dull throbbing ache as you continue walking, disappearing quickly when you sit down.
You might find that leaning forward as you walk, like when youre at the supermarket pushing your trolley, can ease the pain, which causes some people with this issue to constantly lean forwards when they walk.
Spinal stenosis is a condition that is caused by a deterioration of the joints in your spine, causing the small gaps that the nerves come out of within the spine to get even smaller. This may cause a compression on the nerves, which in turn causes you pain in your back and possibly your legs.
The reason this is worse when you walk is purely due to being upright the position that your spine is in when you are upright and walking seems to make this compressing effect worse, which is why the symptoms improve when you sit down.
When Should I See A Doctor About Back Pain
About 80% of adults experience back pain at some time in their lives. It’s one of most common reasons people see a doctor or miss work. The pain can range from a dull ache to sharp, sudden and debilitating pain.
For most people, back pain is mechanical in nature, which means the elements of your back and how they move together has changed.
Possible back conditions could include:
Muscle or ligament strain
Heavy lifting or a sudden awkward movement can strain the muscles or ligaments in your back. Also, if you are overweight or in poor physical condition, the constant strain on your back can cause muscle fatigue and muscle spasms.
Bulging or ruptured disk
Disks are the cushions between the bones in your spine. You can have bulging or ruptured disks that may or may not cause pain by compressing a nerve root and causing pain that radiates into the leg.
Disks may narrow over time and cause your vertebrae to grind together resulting pain.
Most back pain even severe back pain goes away on its own in four to six weeks with self-care, such as rest, heat or ice, over-the-counter pain medication and exercise.
Surgery often is effective to correct a spinal deformity or instability issue. Surgery also is helpful to treat pain radiating down a leg due to compression of a nerve root in the spine if other conservative treatments have failed. However, surgery is not considered a good treatment for generalized back pain.
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Possible Conditions Causing Severe Back Pain
Dr. Drymalski also details several conditions that can cause intense back pain, many of which center on the bones or discs. But you also might be wondering, How do I know if my back pain is kidney-related? Problems with what other organs can cause lower back pain?
He shares a wide-ranging list of potential conditions that can bring about extreme back pain:
Although that list of possible conditions may seem daunting, the important thing to do is to focus on your symptoms and how youre feeling. Also, be sure to consider any symptoms that youre experiencing beyond back pain.
Pay attention to severe back pain and other symptoms that appear with it.
Pay attention to the other symptoms in addition to your back pain, especially your bowel/bladder function and leg function, Dr. Drymalski says.
He adds that if you demonstrate any of the above red flag symptoms, if your pain persists and does not appear to be related to movement, or if you have a history of cancer, recent IV drug use, or a vascular disease, you may be at increased risk for serious back conditions.
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Downhearted Feelings Are Common Among Adults With Back Pain
Substantially larger proportions of adults with back pain, compared to those without back pain, report feeling sad, worthless, or hopeless . Almost three-quarters 72 percent of those with back pain report that such feelings have interfered with their life, compared to 61 percent of those without back pain. People with chronic back pain report significant levels of psychological distress, including feelings of anger and depression, while people who have suffered an acute episode of back pain are less likely to report these feelings.
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.
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A Frequently Misdiagnosed Condition May Be To Blame
Nearly everyone experiences low back pain at one time or another. For many people, the pain is brought on by heavy lifting, a bad sleep position or twisting the wrong way. For others, it may be age-related osteoarthritis.
But for a significant number of back pain sufferers, the pain becomes chronic and can be due to a condition known as ankylosing spondylitis , a form of arthritis that causes painful inflammation of the spinal joints . Less often, pain also occurs in other parts of the body, such as the shoulders and hips or even the jaw or small joints of the hands.
AS most often referred to simply as spondylitis is typically diagnosed before the age of 40, but the condition may go undetected or misdiagnosed until the patient is much older.
If spondylitis progresses, the inflammation can lead to new bone formation that causes the spine to fuse in a forward-stooped position. This occurred in Pope John Paul II, who suffered from AS.
Why do so many cases of spondylitis escape notice? For some patients, the back pain and stiffness caused by spondylitis are so mild or intermittent that the condition doesnt become a problem until later in life. For example, I recently diagnosed a man in his 70s who had spondylitis, but his back pain had become severe only recently.
What you need to know
MORE THAN JUST BACK PAIN
GETTING THE RIGHT DIAGNOSIS
Certain gastrointestinal conditions, such as Crohns disease and ulcerative colitis, also have been associated with spondylitis.
Who Should I See For Lower Back Pain
Your primary care physician knows you best and should be your first contact for lower back pain. If he or she is unable to diagnose or treat the issue, you may get referred to a specialist, such as a rehabilitation physician . These specialists practice a comprehensive approach to lower back pain, and can diagnose and treat a variety of conditions that have lower back pain as a symptom.
Later, you may get referred to a physical therapist, a chiropractor or another practitioner depending on the nature of your back pain. The good news is that surgery is rarely needed for lower back pain. Only about one in ten patients needs lower back surgery, Chhatre says.
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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 Serious Back Pain
In this blog, when I say serious back pain, I mean back pain that requires a visit to a doctor.
The severity of your symptoms is not the only indicator as to whether your lower back pain is serious. For example, pain from a pulled lower back muscle can be intense, but it will typically subside after a few days of basic at-home care.
See Pulled Back Muscle and Lower Back Strain
In contrast, lumbar degenerative disc disease can cause a moderate, dull ache in the lower backthis kind of pain is not necessarily intense, but it may get worse over time without treatment. In these cases, a physician can recommend a long-term treatment plan.
See Lumbar Degenerative Disc Disease Treatment
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The Tricky One: Cancer As A Cause Of Low Back Pain And The Necessity Of Testing Just In Case When The Symptoms Justify It
Sorry I have to use the C word I know its kind of a bummer. But C happens.
A few cancers in their early stages can be hard to tell apart from ordinary back pain a bone cancer in the vertebrae, for instance and these create a frustrating diagnostic problem. They are too rare for doctors to inflict cancer testing on every low back pain patient just in case. And yet the possibility cannot be dismissed, either! This is an unsolveable problem.
Most cancers and ominous problems will inevitably start to cause other, distinctive, ominous symptoms, and it wont be long before someone catches on that theres more going on than just back pain. So it truly is an extraordinary circumstance for back pain to be ominous without causing other symptoms that raise the alarm.
For example, in 2017, the New England Journal of Medicine reported on a creepy case of slowly growing neurological deficit caused by a very stealthy cancer, which took a lot of diagnostic effort to solve.25shudder So sneaky cancers happen but they are crazy rare.
This is an unholy combination of factors: the exact same symptoms can have either an extremely rare but serious cause, or an extremely common but harmless cause that can be greatly aggravated by excessive alarm!
My favourite epitaph: I told you I was sick!
What Are The Most Common Lower Back Surgery Procedures
Spine surgery is not necessary for most people who have lower back pain. If you do need it, your doctor will recommend an appropriate procedure to address your specific symptoms and medical situation. Common spine surgeries include:
Spinal Fusion. Two or more vertebrae are permanently fused together to limit excess spinal motion. Your surgeon will use a combination of bone, bonelike material, screws, plates and rods to hold the vertebrae together so they can heal into a single unit. Spinal fusion may be done to correct spinal deformities or to increase the spines stability in severe cases of spinal osteoarthritis or herniated discs.
Laminectomy and laminotomy. Laminectomy is a surgery in which your surgeon removes the back portion of one or more vertebrae to create more space for the spinal cord or other nerves. In people with severe arthritis, bone spurs within the spinal canal can grow large enough to press on the spinal cord, causing pain and limiting mobility. In a similar surgery known as laminotomy, your surgeon will remove a small piece of bone called the lamina from the back of the vertebra.
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The Universal Guide To Lower Back Pain: Everything You Ever Wanted To Know Straight From The Experts
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If youve ever had lower back pain stop you from doing what you want, youre not alone. Lower back pain is one of the most common medical problems in the world. It is a leading reason why people visit a doctor, affecting more than 80% of adults at some point in their lives. According to the Global Burden of Diseasea significant study published in the Lancet medical journallower back pain is also a leading cause of disability.
While severe lower back pain can cause worry, pain severity is not always an indication something is seriously wrong. Photo Source: Shutterstock.
You may not be able to prevent lower back pain, especially as you age and your back loses some strength and resilience. Fortunately, there are many ways you can get relief, no matter the cause of your back pain.
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.
Think PNBC may be right for you? Schedule a consultation.
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Ways To Treat Chronic Back Pain Without Surgery
Back pain is considered chronic if it lasts three months or longer. It cancome and go, often bringing temporary relief, followed by frustration.Dealing with chronic back pain can be especially trying if you dont knowthe cause.
Back pain rehabilitationspecialistAndrew Nava, M.D., offers insights into common chronic back pain causes and nonsurgicaltreatment optionsand advises not to give up hope.
Diagnosing Lower Back Injuries
When a patient comes to The Mayfair Clinic their treatment always starts with a diagnosis at their first consultation. This consultation delves deep into the patients life and their medical history. This is to find out about the patients activity level, what they do for work, if they have ever suffered from a back condition before and anything else that may help us identify the cause of their back pain. A lot of people dont quite realise the challenges they face in recovering from lower back pain if they are very inactive and have poor muscle tone.
Once we know more about the patient, we begin a physical exam of their back and any other places that they feel symptoms. At The Mayfair Clinic, we ask our patients to go into as much detail about their symptoms as possible. This helps us to map out areas of concern and then examine them when we perform the physical exam.
The physical exam for back pain may involve a lot of special tests and asking the patient to move their arms and legs. This is to help us see which movements cause pain and the special tests are to discover which internal spinal structures have been injured, such as the disc or facet joints. Once we have a rough area of a patients back mapped out, we can start to formulate a treatment and rehabilitation strategy.
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Back Pain And Pregnancy
Back pain during each trimester of your pregnancy can be common, and several causes are to blame. However, you should be sure to talk with your doctor about what youre experiencing, in case the pain may be part of a bigger problem.
Here are a few reasons why you may be experiencing back pain during pregnancy:
Shifting center of gravity
As your baby grows, the center of your bodys gravity moves outward. Your spine and back arch to make up for the change in balance. This put extra stress on the lower lumbar spine.
Weight gain can be a healthy part of pregnancy, but even the little bit youre likely to gain during those 9 months can put more stress on your back and core muscles.
As your body prepares to deliver the baby, it releases hormones that loosen the ligaments that stabilize your pelvis and lumbar spine. These same hormones can cause the bones in your spine to shift, which may lead to discomfort and pain.
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.
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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.