Lower Back Pain: Causes, Symptoms And Treatments

Over 80% of the populace will have an issue with lower back pain at some point in their life. This means that you are very likely to suffer from the problem at some time. Since this is true, you will want to understand the problem and know what to do if you have it. The following article is an informative look at the problem and its treatment options.

Most cases of lower back pain involve some general cause. This could be muscle strain, injury, or overuse. Sometimes, the issue is more specific. A condition of the spine is the culprit. The most common conditions are:

– Herniated Disc

– Osteoarthritis

– Spinal Stenosis

– Spondylolisthesis

– Degenerative Disc Disease

There are also some uncommon conditions that might be causing the issue. These include:

– Piriformis Syndrome

– Spinal Tumors


– Sacroiliac Joint Dysfunction

Causes of Lower Back Pain

The most common sources of lower back pain are mechanical issues and soft-tissue injuries. Such injuries include:

– Harm to the intervertebral discs

– Compression of nerve roots

– Improper movement of the spinal joints

Muscle Strains and Ligament Sprains

The most typical source of lower back pain is a torn or pulled muscle or ligament.

Lower back strain or sprain can arise suddenly or may come about from movement over a long period of time.

A strain occurs when a muscle is moved too far and tears. This causes a harm to the muscle intrinsically.

A sprain occurs when a ligament is torn. Ligaments bind the bones together.

Causes of Strain and Sprain

The typical causes are:

– You lift an object that is too heavy for you. You may also twist your spine in the wrong direction.

– A sudden movement that puts a lot of stress on the region. Maybe you fall and cause this.

– You carry yourself with improper posture.

– You injure yourself playing a sport. This may come about particularly in a sport where you make twisting motions.

Even though strains and sprains are not usually that harmful, you might suffer a lot of pain from them.


Treatment for a sprain or strain is usually simple and brief. You may need to supplement the treatment with an exercise plan and modifications to your activities.

The treatment will depend upon how severe your injury is.

Initial Treatment

The initial treatment program is not very invasive. At first, you may try:

– Anti-inflammatory medication (NSAIDs) – You can buy these at your local market or drugstore. They include such medications as aspirin, ibuprofen, and naproxen. To get larger dosages, you may need a prescription.

– Over-the-counter pain medications – These include acetaminophen. They diminish your pain by interfering with the way that the brain interprets pain signals. You may be prescribed a medication that is a combination of acetaminophen and an opioid.

– Muscle relaxants – You can get your doctor to prescribe these to control any muscle spasms. The only thing to watch out for is possible addiction.

– Ice Packs – These will diminish your inflammation. You might have this immediately following your injury. You should apply the ice for 10-20 minutes a number of times each day. You will need to create a barrier between the ice and your skin. Do not apply the ice directly to your skin.

– Heat Packs – These will increase your circulation. This will stimulate healing and take away the tension in the muscles. You should start the heat packs about two days past the time of the injury. Be careful not to burn yourself. Don’t apply it directly to your skin. You may want to apply the heat before you get out of bed in the morning to make movement easier.

– Massage therapy – This also heightens your circulation and relaxes the muscles. You can enhance your range of motion and diminish your pain. Massage can also help your body produce endorphins. These will diminish pain signals in your nervous system.

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– Walking – You may find that you have no desire to remain active. However, staying active by walking is very important. If you find that it is difficult to do at first, then try short walks frequently during each day.

– Activity modification – You may need to modify your activities when you are healing from the injury. Try not to do anything that is too strenuous, and you should make sure not to strain yourself further by lifting heavy things. You may want to take a break from activity completely for a few days after your injury.

Lower Back Pain Symptoms

If you need to go to a doctor for your lower back pain, then you will need to accurately describe your symptoms to him or her. Understanding your pain will help your doctor treat you.

Lower back pain may start out as acute from an injury. However, it may continue and become chronic.

Lower back pain usually will occur as some combination of the following symptoms:

Dull, aching pain – The pain that you will get in your lower back will typically feel dull and aching. It will not usually feel sharp or stinging. The pain might come along with muscle spasms. It may reduce your mobility and cause aches even below your back in the hips and pelvis.

Pain in the buttocks, legs, and feet – Lower back pain can cause an issue called sciatica. Sciatica results from irritation of the sciatic nerve. It will typically occur on only one side of your body. It will be felt as a sharp, tingling, or numb sensation in areas below the lower back.

Pain that gets worse after a period of sitting – When you sit, it places pressure on the discs. This may cause low back pain to get worse.

Pain that improves when you change positions – Exactly how your pain manifests itself with changing positions can aid your doctor in producing a diagnosis. For instance, a person who has spinal stenosis may have pain when walking. However, the pain might get better when leaning forward.

Pain that is worse upon waking and improves with movement – Many people who have lower back pain will stiffen up while they sleep. The symptoms improve after rising and moving around. It could be also that there is decreased blood flow while you are asleep.

The Onset of Symptoms

The onset of the pain will vary depending upon what the source of the pain is.

Pain that develops over time – The symptoms that result from repeated motion or stress-inducing positions may develop slowly over time. The pain may start to feel like a constant ache.

Pain that comes and goes, but gets worse as time goes on – The pain that comes about from degenerative disc disease may come and go. However, the pain may get more severe as time proceeds.

Pain right after an injury – Sudden or jarring movements can hurt your spine and its muscles. This may result in pain right after the injury.

Delayed symptoms – Sometimes, the symptoms will develop over time. The pain may actually come about as a result of the natural healing processes of your muscles.

Low Back Pain Symptoms by Location

According to Spine, the largest vertebrae of the body are located in the lumbar spine. They support most of the weight of the upper body. These vertebrae are prone to becoming injured.

L3-L4 – The L3-L4 nerve root can lead to shooting pains in the front of your thigh. Less typically, the pain may radiate to the front of the knee, shin, and foot.

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L4-L5 – Pain here will usually occur as sciatica. It may extend to the calves.

L5-S1 – The place where the base of the spine joins the sacrum has a few joints that give support. One is the lumbrosacral joint and the other is the sacroiliac joint. Pain from the L5-S1 segment is typically caused by issues with these joints or from a compressed nerve root. Other problems may include sciatica.

Symptoms Requiring Immediate Attention

Occasionally, lower back pain may be the result of some underlying problem. If you have any of the following symptoms, you will need immediate attention:

– Problems with bladder and bowel control

– Weight loss that does not happen intentionally

– Fever or chills

– Severe pain in the abdomen

Non-Surgical Treatments for Lower Back Pain

The target of medical treatment is to reduce the pain of lower back problems. However, these treatments will not alter the underlying issue. Your doctor will usually recommend that you get involved in physical therapy or some other type of program.

The following are typical medical treatments for lower back pain:

– Muscle relaxants – This medication depresses the central nervous system and enhances the mobility of muscles that are tense.

– Narcotic pain medications – Narcotics are also known as opioids. They alter your perception of pain. Narcotics are usually prescribed for severe, short-term pain. They are not usually used for the long term because they have side effects and issues with addiction.

– Back braces – In certain cases, a back brace may ease the pain in the lower back. Braces may actually also shorten healing time. They are many times used after back surgery.

– Epidural steroid injections – This treatment consists of a steroid that is injected into the outer part of the dural sac. This sac supports the spinal cord. An x-ray is used to find the right location. The injection should diminish inflammation around a compressed nerve root.

Medical treatment is often combined with other methods. For instance, the injection might ease the pain enough to let the patient proceed with physical therapy.

Alternative Treatments

Alternative treatments are non-medical treatments. These kinds of treatments may be effective in giving relief from lower back pain.

These treatments include:

– Chiropractics – A chiropractor will use physical adjustments to the spine to relieve the problem. The goal is to ease pain and improve the range of mobility. The way that this works is that the chiropractor uses hand thrusts to make adjustments to the spine. Some patients have found this kind of treatment to be useful.

– Acupuncture – Acupuncture is an ancient Asian medical tradition. It is used to stimulate points on the body that are parts of energy fields. The control of these energy fields can help diminish pain and discomfort in your body. The way that this works is through the application of needles to the skin. Some people have claimed that they got a benefit from this method.

– Massage therapy – By massaging the lower back, you may ease the muscle spasms that are contributing to the pain. Massage also enhances blood flow to the area. This may shorten healing time by causing nutrients and oxygen to flow to the affected areas.

– Mindful meditation – Meditation may be useful in altering the perception of pain. It also can diminish the depression, anxiety, and sleep issues that come along with chronic pain. The techniques that are involved include deep breathing exercises, among other methods.

Surgery for Lower Back Pain

If you have persistent lower back pain that is not resolving after other types of treatment, then you might want to consider getting surgery done. It may take a lot of consideration to decide whether you want surgery performed. Surgery is almost never a solution in the short-term for back problems.

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The factors that need to be considered before having surgery include:

Your ability to function – If you can get through your regular life activities with manageable levels of pain, then you might want to opt using just the other kinds of treatment. If you find that you simply cannot function given the pain and limited mobility, then perhaps you will opt for surgery.

Healing process and lifestyle – There is a higher level of commitment in terms of time when you have back surgery performed. You need to consider how well you can get through the healing process after the surgery.

Type of surgery – There are different types of back surgeries. Some are more invasive than others and require a longer healing time. The pain of recovery and the length of the hospital stay will also vary. Nowadays, with improvements in medical technology, many kinds of surgery can be performed on an outpatient basis.

Mental health – Research indicates that mental well-being is correlated with the satisfaction of the outcome of surgery. You must consider exactly how you will respond to surgery and its aftermath.

Surgery is not recommended for mild back pain. Also, you should wait for a certain period of time with your pain before you decide on surgery. One more thing is that surgery is not recommended if the doctor cannot detect the problem through imaging tests.

Types of Surgery

Decompression Surgery

A decompression surgery eliminates the pressure on a nerve root. This may result from a herniated portion of a disc or a bone spur.

There are two kinds of decompression:

Microdiscectomy – This is a procedure for people with a lumbar herniated disc that results in sciatica.

Laminectomy – This is the removal of the layer of bone or soft tissue that is compressing the nerves.

Decompression surgery is minimally invasive. The hospital stay will be short for this type of surgery.

Lumbar Spinal Fusion

Fusion surgery involves the removal of tissue between two vertebral bones. It is replaced with bone or metal. The process allows the bones to eventually grow together.

Lumbar Artificial Disc

For some patients, the replacement of the disc is a good alternative to fusion surgery. The recovery is easier and it allows for a greater potential for mobility.

Posterior Motion Device

A device can be used as an alternative to fusion for certain kinds of issues. The surgery is smaller and the recovery is faster.

Lower Back Surgery Post-Operative Care

The healing period after surgery will depend upon different factors. A microdiscectomy is minimally invasive. There is usually no hospital stay, and recovery will take about a week. A lumbar fusion may need an overnight in the hospital. The recuperation may be slow. You might need to modify your activity level while the fusion occurs over a period of time.


The back is truly one of the largest and most complicated regions of the body. For that reason, I have not been able, in this short article, to go through all of the possible causes of lower back pain problems. You can find more information on the internet for the specific type of problem that you may have. On the Healthline website related to lower back pain, there are over 30 causes of pain that could potentially arise.

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