Low Back Pain Overview

Common Low Back Pain Causes and Symptoms

Low back pain (pain in your lumbar spine) is incredibly common. Nearly everyone at some point will have back pain—whether it's a brief bout of acute pain or chronic back pain that lasts for months, even years.

Most back pain is a result of sprains and strains caused by, for example, not lifting something properly. This type of pain typically heals on its own or with over-the-counter medications, heat packs, or ice packs.

But sometimes low back pain is caused by a more severe spinal condition, such as spondylosis, which is osteoarthritis of the spine. The pain can be so intense that it interferes with your daily routine, including work. If this is the case, you may need more serious medical attention, such as physical therapy or perhaps surgery.

Low Back Pain Causes
There are various causes of low back pain, so it's crucial to know the cause of your pain so you can treat it appropriately. Your doctor will help you identify the exact cause of your pain.

Some of the most common causes of low back pain are:

  • aging: As we grow older, so does our spine. The discs and ligaments of our spine can dry out and become rigid. Also, the normal wear and tear process can lead to certain conditions, such as degenerative disc disease, which can cause back pain.
  • daily life: Routine tasks can cause you stress, leading to tight back muscles. This can result in pain and stiffness.
  • obesity: Being obese puts extra pressure and stress on your back and can aggravate other health conditions.
  • injuries and accidents: A bad fall or car accident, for example, are sudden, unexpected causes of low back pain.

Low Back Pain Symptoms
Low back pain is a symptom on its own, but depending on what's causing it, there are other ways you can feel low back pain.

Pain signals your body that something's not right, and with low back pain, you can also feel numbness, weakness, and tingling in your arms and legs.  If you experience shooting pain in your legs, you may be experiencing sciatica (or lumbar radiculopathy).

Your low back pain can be very dull or it can be sudden and sharp. You may even feel pain with certain movements.

If your low back pain is severe enough, seek immediate medical attention, especially if you have any of the following emergency signs:

  • Pain that affects your daily activities
  • Weakness or numbness in your groin or leg
  • Weakness, tingling, or numbness in an arm or hand
  • Loss of bowel or bladder control

Just because you have low back pain doesn't mean you'll need surgery. There are multiple non-surgical treatment options to help you feel better. With proper treatment, you can learn to cope with—and even prevent—low back pain.

Updated on: 11/18/15
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