More than 3 million people suffer from lower back pain each year. It is much more common to suffer from than upper back pain because the lower back supports the upper back. The pain radiates from the back, muscles, bones, hips, or legs and the pain can range from acute to chronic. Acute lower back pain normally lasts for only a few weeks. The pain comes suddenly and usually after a small injury or heavy lifting. Chronic lower back pain is pain that lasts longer than 3 months. It can be severe and debilitating for individuals suffering from this pain. While pain is a different experience for every individual, there are common symptoms including: aching muscles, shooting or stabbing pain, pain radiating down your leg, muscle spams, leg numbness, pain that worsens when in upright positions (standing, walking, bending), and pain relief when resting/reclining.
Commonly Linked Conditions
Lower back pain can be difficult to diagnose because in many cases it develops without a cause. Here are a few of the most common conditions:
Arthritis can develop in the spine causing spinal stenosis or narrowing of the spinal cord. Osteoarthritis, on of the most common types of arthritis, can lead to pain and worsens with age.
Muscle or Ligament Strain
This pain is commonly brought on by repeated heavy lifting or sudden awkward movements. Being in poor physical condition while stressing your back can cause painful muscle spasms.
Located on your spine, discs are like cushions in between your bones (vertebrae). These discs are filled with a soft material that can leak from a tear in the disc and press on a nerve in the spine. When this occurs it can cause tingling, numbness, and even moderate to severe pain.
The most common condition for irregular spines is scoliosis. Scoliosis is when the spine curves to the side and can cause pain in your back.
The sciatic nerve runs from the lower back down through the legs. When pressure is put on the nerve, it causes pain that shoots from the lower back and down into the legs. Read more about sciatica pain.
Fibromyalgia is a condition that causes muscle pain throughout the entire body.
A nerve can be damaged for many different reasons. It could be due to a disease or occur due to an injury. The pain is different for everyone but most commonly described as stabbing, intense pain.
An injury to the back pain can cause acute pain, like muscle strains, to chronic pain, like nerve damage. If you suffer from pain in your lower due to an injury, you should seek attention immediately.
When Should I See a Doctor?
If you have concerns about your pain, there is now harm in consulting your doctor whenever you feel it is necessary. For acute pain, your doctor can help give advice on some at home treatments. If your pain is not relieved by self-care and lasts longer than 3 weeks, it is time to seek professional help. Here are some signs that can help determine if you need to see a doctor.
- Pain is not improving
- Pain is severe and/or getting worse
- Pain is not relieved when resting
- Pain spreads to your legs, especially below your knees
- Difficulty moving or standing
- Weakness in one or both legs
- Tingling and/or numbness feelings in one or both legs
- Unexplained weight loss
If you experience any of these symptoms or signs with your pain, seek attention immediately:
- New bowel or bladder problems
- Injury to your back
- Numbness in the groin area
Risk Factors & Preventions
The most common risk factors are:
The risk of suffering from this condition increases along with age. While lower back pain can occur in any age group, the most common age people begin to suffer from it begins around the 40s. It is helpful to be aware of your body. Figuring out how your body works and the best ways you can improve your health can help prevent future pain.
Not exercising can cause your muscles to become weak. When the muscles in your back and abdominal become weak, it can cause your spine to become unbalanced. Exercising these muscles will allow your back to become stronger and function better overall. Low-impact aerobic activities, like walking or swimming, can help prevent and manage pain.
Being overweight causes extra stress on your back. Maintaining a healthy body weight can greatly reduce the chances of pain.
Certain diseases like arthritis and cancer can cause various symptoms, including lower back pain. While diseases like these can’t necessarily be prevented, it’s important to know how you can manage any pain they might cause.
Posture & Lifting
Incorrect posture and heavy lifting are some of the main causes of this condition. It’s important to remember to keep your posture correct to avoid future pain. Here are a few ways to avoid future pain:
- Standing without slouching, twisting, or straining your back.
- Changing sitting positions every 30 minutes while keeping your knees and hips aligned.
- Avoid heavy lifting but if not possible, lifting with your back straight and only bending at your knees.
Studies show that smoking can worsen or even intensify your pain and also slows down your bodies healing process. It can reduce your blood flow, which means that your body and especially spine do not get all of the nutrients it needs to keep you healthy and strong. Quitting smoking can be difficult but can greatly improve your quality of life.
How Alabama Pain Physicians Can Help
At Alabama Pain Physicians, our goal is to better the quality of life of our patients. We take your pain seriously and strive to establish an accurate diagnosis along with a treatment plan to ultimately minimize your pain. To determine the exact cause of your lower back pain, our physicians will perform a physical exam and use your complete medical history to help find the best treatment options suited for you. In addition to the physical exam and history, you may also need imaging studies and test to help the physician determine the cause of your lower back pain. Contact Alabama Pain Physicians today and let us help get you on the right tract to managing your pain.