When Should I See My Doctor
Apart from the signs of a serious back injury, you should see your doctor if:
- your problems have not improved at all within a few days
- your problems have not improved completely within 6 weeks
Your doctor may be able to help you manage any pain and may refer you for physiotherapy or other investigations.
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…
Sleeping On Your Stomach: Little Tricks
If it is possible to sleep only on the stomach due to injury or other circumstances, improvised devices can relieve the pain. Under the inguinal zone and pelvis area, you can put a roller, a rolled-up bath towel, or a small pillow. The lumbar area mustnt bend forward, straining the muscles and squeezing the discs. The use of tight belts or corsets for the lumbar region can help, and if they are not at hand, a fast tightening with a towel with tying a knot in front just before bedtime will help. It will help keep the lower back stationary and prevent it from leaning forward when lying down. There are some other little tricks on how to sleep well with lower back pain.
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Or You Could Be Dying What Are The Odds That Back Pain Is Something Scary
Of course there are cases of low back pain that have alarming causes, but its reassuringly rare. Once in a while back pain is a warning sign of cancer, autoimmune disease, infection, or a handful of other scary culprits.7 Over the age of 55, about one in twenty cases turns out to be a fracture, and one in a hundred is more ominous.8 The further you are from 55, the better your odds.
But how can you tell? It can be tricky. This is a concise, readable guide to symptoms that need better-safe-than-sorry investigation with your doctor. In other words, this article explains the difference between dangerous and just painful as clearly as possible. Tables, checklists, and examples ahead.
What Structures Make Up The Back
The lower backwhere most back pain occursincludes the five vertebrae in the lumbar region, which supports much of the weight of the upper body. The spaces between the vertebrae are maintained by round, rubbery pads called intervertebral discs that act like shock absorbers throughout the spinal column to cushion the bones as the body moves. Bands of tissue known as ligaments hold the vertebrae in place, and tendons attach the muscles to the spinal column. Thirty-one pairs of nerves are rooted to the spinal cord and they control body movements and transmit signals from the body to the brain.
Other regions of vertebrate are cervical , thoracic , and sacral and coccygeal segments.
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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.The worst possible causes of back pain
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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
Nonsurgical Treatments To Help You Stand Straighter And Longer Without Pain
The talented team of professionals at Long Island Spine Rehabilitation Medicine can design a treatment program especially for you that may include one or more of the following injection approaches or interventions. It should be noted that very often such pain complaints can be successfully treated without any type of injection procedure as the judicious use of medications and a personalized physical rehabilitation program may well suffice:
- Spinal epidural injections administered under fluoroscopic guidance to target the site of your pain
- Facet joint injections to address painful joints of the spine for diagnostic and therapeutic purposes and possibly radiofrequency denervation to address the nerves which carry pain signals from the painful segments
- Acupuncture in which tiny needles are inserted painlessly into the skin to increase energy flow and release endorphins that act as natural painkillers
- PEMF technology that uses varying frequencies of electromagnetic waves to diminish or eliminate back pain and accelerate healing
One of our experienced physiatrists can diagnose the cause of your pain precisely and prescribe a physical therapy program that will strengthen your back without doing you any harm. He or she can also provide a broad range of treatment options that may help to resolve your lower back issues so that you can once again enjoy socializing at parties or social events without being the person who always has to sit down.
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Not Sure What To Do Next
If you are still concerned about your back injury, check your symptoms with healthdirects online Symptom Checker to get advice on when to seek medical attention.
The Symptom Checker guides you to the next appropriate healthcare steps, whether its self care, talking to a health professional, going to a hospital or calling triple zero .
Two Back Pain Situations You Should Take Seriously Right Away No Delay
These two back pain scenarios might be medical emergencies. They do not necessarily mean something horrible is wrong, but its extremely important to make sure.
If you are experiencing true numbness14 around the groin and buttocks and/or failure of bladder or bowel control, please consider it a serious emergency do not wait to see if it goes away. These symptoms indicate spinal cord injury or compression15 and require immediate medical attention.
And, of course, if youve had an accident with forces that may have been sufficient to fracture your spine, please seek thorough medical assessment promptly, including an X-ray to look for a fracture. You need an X-ray to ensure that your spine is not actually broken.
Isnt it rather obvious that a potential spinal fracture is an emergency?
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The Role Of The Abdominal Wall
To understand back pain during abdominal exercises, we must first understand the role of the abdominals. As mentioned earlier, the abdominals are crucial for preventing spinal extension. If they are strong enough, the pelvis will be pulled into a proper position, which prevents an anterior pelvic tilt. On some individuals, an anterior pelvic tilt can be highly visible during day-to-day movement, and is better known as a duck butt.
If someone is unable to assume great alignment on a regular basis, how on earth can we expect them to challenge their abdominals with the plank, and not feel tremendous tension on their lumbar spine?
Sometimes, people dont tilt their pelvis forward. However, if their abdominals are weak, their spinal alignment will still find another way to compensate. This often results in an over-emphasised arc in the lumbar spine, and a hunched-over position in their thoracic spine.
So we see that the plank challenges these anti-extension properties, and the leg raise challenges the abdominals’ ability to hold good pelvic alignment. But why is it that these specific exercises cause such aggravation?
How Is Low Back Pain Diagnosed
A complete medical history and physical exam can usually identify any serious conditions that may be causing the pain. Neurologic tests can help determine the cause of pain and appropriate treatment. Imaging tests are not needed in most cases but may be ordered to rule out specific causes of pain, including tumors and spinal stenosis. Occasionally the cause of chronic lower back pain is difficult to determine even after a thorough examination.
Blood tests are not routinely used to diagnose the cause of back pain but might be ordered to look for signs of inflammation, infection, cancer, and/or arthritis.
Bone scans can detect and monitor an infection, fracture, or bone disorder. A small amount of radioactive material is injected into the bloodstream and collects in the bones, particularly in areas with some abnormality. Scanner-generated images can identify specific areas of irregular bone metabolism or abnormal blood flow, as well as to measure levels of joint disease.
Discography involves injecting a contrast dye into a spinal disc thought to be causing low back pain. The fluids pressure in the disc will reproduce the persons symptoms if the disc is the cause. The dye helps to show the damaged areas on CT scans taken following the injection.
Electrodiagnostics can identify problems related to the nerves in the back and legs. The procedures include:
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What Are Some Less Invasive Or Noninvasive Back Pain Treatments
Your doctor has a wide range of treatments that may help your lower back pain. In general, expect your doctor to take a stepped care approach. That means starting with simple, low-cost treatments and moving to more aggressive approaches later. Keep in mind that many treatments take time to reach their full effect.
Medications. When over-the-counter pills and topicals dont do enough to relieve back pain, your doctor may recommend a prescription drug. Examples include:
- Antiseizure medication, such gabapentin or pregabalin, for nerve-related pain
- Muscle relaxants, such as baclofen or carisoprodol
- Prescription NSAIDs, such as celecoxib, diclofenac, or fenoprofen
- Opioids, such as oxycodone or hydrocodone, on a short-term basis.
Physical therapy . PT for lower back pain involves passive and active therapies to help the patient build core muscle strength, improve spinal flexibility and range of motion, correct posture and more. Your physical therapy sessions may include:
- Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation
What Causes Lumbar Strain
Injury can damage the tendons and muscles in the lower back. Pushing and pulling sports, such as weight lifting or football, can lead to a lumbar strain. In addition, sports that require sudden twisting of the lower back, such as in tennis, basketball, baseball, and golf, can lead to this injury.
Certain risk factors can increase the risk for this injury. The risk factors are:
- Severe lower back curvature
- Weak back or belly muscles
- Tight hamstrings
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How Can I Tell If My Back Pain Is Serious
You should get medical care right away if:
You are older than 50
The pain was caused by an injury such as a fall or car crash
You have trouble sleeping because of the pain
You lose weight without trying or have a fever, chills, or a history of cancer
You have trouble urinating or controlling your bowels
When To See A Healthcare Provider
Nighttime back pain that wakes you up from sleep or prevents you from sleeping is a sign that it’s time to discuss the issue with your healthcare provider. Along with lower back pain, you can also experience muscle stiffness and a limited range of motion, especially if the cause is a strain or sprain.
It’s also helpful to know how pain is commonly categorized:
- Acute pain is short-term pain lasting a few days or a few weeks. Its typically connected to an injury or specific event.
- Chronic pain is longer-term pain lasting for several months or more. In many cases, it isn’t initiated by an injury.
While each individual’s situation and pain threshold will be different, there are some common guidelines that’ll help you decide when your nighttime lower back pain merits a trip to the healthcare provider.
Contact your healthcare provider as soon as possible if your pain:
- Began with a specific injury
- Continues or gets worse for more than a few days
- Feels severe or radiates to other parts of the body, like your legs
- Is accompanied by signs of infection, such as redness, warmth, swelling, or fever
- Is accompanied by weakness, numbness, or tingling in your lower body
Checking with your primary care healthcare provider or other first-line healthcare professional is a good start. They will be able to treat or refer you to another specialist if needed.
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How Can You Prevent Lower Back Pain
While you cant stop aging or change your genetic makeup, lifestyle changes can help manage and prevent lower back pain. Having a healthy lifestyle may make you less likely to suffer an accidental injury, too.
Improve your physical fitness. People who are not physically fit are more likely to develop lower back pain because strong core muscles help support the lower back.
Stay active. People who lead sedentary lives may be more likely to injure themselves when they do exert themselves. As far as back health is concerned, its better to do a smaller amount of physical activity most days of the week than to sit all week and over-exert yourself on the weekends.
Lose weight if necessary. The more you weigh, the more pressure you have on your lumbar vertebrae. Being overweight or obese can put stress on the back and lead to lower back pain.
Lift heavy objects the right way. Be sure to squat while lifting so that your hips and knees do much of the work. Keep the load close to your chest while you lift.
Your legs, not your lower back, should be the main driver when you’re lifting something heavy.Make your workspace as ergonomic as possible. If you sit at a desk, make sure your chair has plenty of low-back support and your hips are at a right angle to the floor.
Dont use tobacco products. In addition to all the other health problems tobacco use causes, it can restrict blood flow and oxygen to the discs, causing them to degenerate faster.
Precautions And When To Avoid Doing It
Whenever you try to crack your back, do it slowly, purposefully, and within a safe range of motion. Jerking your back, trying to stretch it too far or both can cause injury, such as muscle strains, joint sprains, or bone dislocation.
Do not crack your back and see your doctor as soon as possible if you experience any of the following:
- Youve recently injured your back and you feel like its out of alignment or cant fully move it.
- You cant move your back within its full range of motion or cant move it at all without sharp pain.
- You feel persistent pain in your back before, during, or after cracking that doesnt go away with pain medication.
And cracking your back should feel good. A 2011 study suggests that even just the sound of cracking can make you feel a little better.
If you feel temporary pain when you attempt to crack your back or lasting pain afterward, you might have an underlying condition that needs medical treatment. If this is the case, see your doctor or a chiropractor before you attempt any of these exercises.
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Products That May Help:
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