Lower back pain is one of the most common health issues in the United States, especially among adults 40 and older. This condition usually occur in the last few inches of the spine, just above the buttocks. The pain can be sharp or aching and often feels better with movement. This pain can make you uncomfortable and inconvenient. In severe cases, it can even make you unable to walk normally.
Lower back pain is often caused by long periods of sitting or standing in one position. It can also be a symptom of a more severe condition, such as an infection, kidney stones, or a blood clot. In some cases, lower back pain that radiates down one leg can also be a sign of a severe medical condition.
Many people experience low back pain at some point in their lives. The good news is that most cases of low back pain are temporary and subside on their own within a few weeks. However, if your pain lasts over a few weeks, or you experience leg pain, weakness, and numbness, it’s best to talk to your doctor.
In addition, there are some stretches that you can do every day at home to help relieve the pain. This article discusses the most common causes of lower back pain, their symptoms, and treatments.
Symptoms of Lower Back Pain
Lower back pain can range from mild to severe from person to person.The common symptoms include:
- Pain in the lower back area
- A sharp pain that shoots down your leg
- Dull aching or throbbing pain in your lower back or lower abdomen
- Muscle spasms and stiffness around your lower back or pelvis area
- Loss of bladder or bowel control
- Numbness or tingling around your hips or thighs
- Difficulty walking normally or standing up straight
14 Common Causes of Lower Back Pain
There are many causes of pain in lower back include:
1. A strain or tear
Lower back pain can be triggered by many things, such as lifting something too heavy, bending or twisting the wrong way, or sitting in the same position for too long. But most of the causes are due to a strain or a tear in the muscles in the lower back.
Strains and tears in the muscles can happen when they are put under too much stress. Poor posture, not warming up before exercising, and lifting something too heavy are all common ways of putting your muscles at risk of strain or tear.
2. Kidney stones
Kidney stones are hard deposits formed when minerals in your blood mix with fluid in your kidneys. They usually start in one of two: the kidneys themselves or the ureter (the tube that carries urine from the kidneys to the bladder).
Symptoms may include pain in your lower back or abdomen, blood in your urine, pain during urination, feeling the need to urinate often, and pain during sexual intercourse.
3. Piriformis Syndrome
Piriformis syndrome is a common cause of chronic lower back pain. It is caused by compression of the sciatic nerve as it travels through the muscles and soft tissue around the sciatic Nerve. This is a common cause of low back pain in the leg, especially in pregnant women.
An overactive or tight piriformis muscle often causes piriformis syndrome. The sciatic nerve runs underneath the piriformis muscle and is compressed, causing sciatic nerve impingement.
4. Sacroiliac Joint Dysfunction
The sacroiliac joint is one of the joints connecting the sacrum and pelvis. Sacroiliac joint dysfunction is a common cause of chronic lower back pain in the pelvic region.
SCD is caused by abnormal movement within the sacroiliac joint, leading to inflammation and pain in the lower back. It is more common in middle-aged people and pregnant women.
Diagnosis of SCD is usually made with an X-ray or MRI. Treatments include muscle strengthening and medication.
5. Lumbar Herniated Disc
A lumbar herniated disc occurs when a disc between the vertebrae ruptures, leaks, and bulges into the spinal canal or the epidural space.
This can put pressure on the spinal nerves, causing radiating pain in the lower back down the leg, which is known as sciatica. Lumbar disc herniation can result from a sudden or repetitive injury to the lower back and hip.
The sciatic nerve travels through the lower back and down both legs and becomes pinched or pressed. If the pinched Nerve is in the lower back, the pain will start in the lower back and travel down one leg. The pain will travel down both legs if the pinched Nerve is in the middle or upper back.
Sciatica can result from a pinched nerve in the lower back from an injury, a herniated disc, or degenerative disc disease. It can also occur if the muscles and joints in the lower back are tense, pressing on the sciatic Nerve and pinching it.
7. Spinal Stenosis
Spinal stenosis is a spinal column narrowing, which causes the spinal cord and nerve root to narrow. It is a common cause of lower back pain in the elderly and is often associated with degenerative disc disease.
Spinal stenosis can be diagnosed with an MRI scan. Treatment includes physical therapy, medications, and surgical procedures.
Scoliosis is a curvature of the spine that usually develops during the teens and twenties. It can cause chronic lower back pain, which can be more severe in one part of the back than the other.
An X-ray or MRI can diagnose scoliosis. Treatment usually consists of exercise, braces, and medication.
Arthritis is the breakdown of the joint cartilage. It is a common cause of lower back pain. Arthritis can make moving the spine’s joints painful. In addition, arthritis can make the lower back muscles very tight and sore.
This condition can cause pain in the back when lifting or bending. The stiffness can make it difficult to stand or walk for long periods.
Bursitis is inflammation of the fluid-filled sac that cushions the joints. It is most commonly found around the hip joints. The hip joint can become inflamed due to repetitive motion, such as walking up and down stairs.
This can lead to bursitis around the hip, which can cause lower back pain. Bursitis can be treated with rest, ice, and anti-inflammatory medication such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen.
Osteoporosis is a degenerative disease that causes bones to become fragile and break easily. Bones are living tissue; over time, they can become less dense and break more easily. Bones in the spine can become weaker with age, which can cause lower back pain.
12. Pinched Nerve
A pinched nerve occurs when a nerve is compressed underneath a muscle, between two bones, or between a bone and another tissue.
If a nerve is pinched in the lower back, it can cause pain in the lower back. A pinched nerve can result from an injury, an overly tight muscle, or an excessively tight ligament. It can also occur if the spine gets misaligned and pushes against a nerve.
Spondylolisthesis is a condition in which a vertebra slips out of position and becomes fused to the vertebra below it. Both low back and sciatic pain can be associated with spondylolisthesis.
Spondylolisthesis is common in overweight people or with a genetic predisposition to the disorder.
Breast cancer is one of the most common cancers that cause lower back pain. Breast cancer can spread to the bones and cause back pain. In addition, prostate cancer and pancreatic cancer can also cause pain in the lower back.
How is lower back pain diagnosed?
Common tests for diagnosing low back pain include X-ray, MRI, or CT. These tests take pictures of your spine and can help find any problems or abnormalities.
Your doctor may also do a physical exam or ask questions about your condition and health history. This is called a symptom review. Based on this information, they may order additional tests or treatments.
In addition, the doctor may also recommend electromyography (EMG) test, which records the electrical impulses in your muscles and nerves. An EMG test can help determine if there’s anything wrong with the nerves in your lower back.
Medical Treatments for Lower Back Pain
Treatment varies depending on the cause and your symptoms. Here are some common treatments.
There are medications that can help with the inflammation in your lower back. Examples include NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) and acetaminophen (Tylenol). Other medications may be used if they don’t provide enough relief.
2. Physical therapy
Physical therapy, including stretching, strengthening, and other exercises, can help you manage your lower back pain. It can also help you prevent it from returning in the future. Your physical therapist can also teach you how to do simple things at home that can help relieve your pain.
3. Hands-on manipulation
Hands-on manipulation involves a health care provider manually adjusting a specific part of your body. This therapy is often used in other treatments like medications or physical therapy. It’s generally safe for all women who are pregnant or breastfeeding. Hands-on manipulation is typically used for musculoskeletal problems like low back or shoulder pain.
Doctors use a needle to inject the drug into the area that causes pain, relieving pain and reducing inflammation.
Some severe injuries, like broken bones and diseases like cancer, often require surgery.
4 Easy Stretches for lower back pain
Stretches and exercises can help strengthen your core muscles, relax your muscles, and reduce any tension.
1. Child’s Pose Stretches
A child’s pose is a relaxing pose that can be used whenever you feel stressed or anxious. It can also be used to ease back pain and improve posture.
To do this pose, kneel on the floor with your knees and rest your torso on your thighs. Lean forward and rest your forehead on the floor. You can put a pillow underneath your forehead for extra comfort.
With your palms facing up, press into the floor and lift your elbows as high as possible. Slide your knees apart until they are slightly wider than your torso. For maximum comfort, you can put a pillow underneath your hips. Stay in this pose for 10 to 20 minutes.
2. Runner’s Lunge Stretches
Runner’s lunge stretches are a great way to reduce pain in the lower back. These lunges also improve flexibility and mobility.
To do a runner’s lunge stretch, start standing with one foot about a foot in front of the other. Bend the front knee until your shin is parallel with the ground. Make sure to keep your knees in line with your toes.
Place your hands on your hips or extend them forward towards the ground. Hold this position for 10–20 seconds. Switch sides and repeat.
3. Seated Twist Stretches
Seated twists are an excellent stretch for the lower back, helping to relieve pain and stiffness. This exercise can be done on the floor or in a chair with your knees bent. With your hands on your knees, twist from side to side.
You can also place your hands behind your head for an extra stretch. Twist from side to side for 10–20 seconds at a time. Repeat 3–5 times.
4. Figure 4 Twist Stretches
Figure 4 Twist Stretch can help improve hip flexibility, reduce muscle tension, and ease discomfort in these areas.
To do this exercise, stand with your feet, knees slightly bent. Next, twist your upper body to one side as far as possible. Hold the position for about 10 seconds and then switch sides. Repeat the exercise for about 5 minutes to get the most benefit.
Most lower back pain cases are not severe and can be treated through some stretches at home. If the pain is severe or lasts more than a few days, make an appointment with your doctor.