Lower Back Pain

  • What is low back pain? (Overview)

Low back pain is very common. The bottom part of the back has just five vertebrae, which is less than that of the mid-back and neck.

These lumbar vertebrae bear the weight of the upper body and experience a lot of movement and stress, leading to wear, tear and injuries.

The pain ranges from mild to severe. It can result from different injuries to the muscles and tendons in the back.

Usually, lower back pain gets better with rest, pain relievers and physical therapy. Some back injuries and conditions require surgical repair.

  • What are the symptoms of low back pain?

Symptoms of lower back pain can occur suddenly or appear gradually.

Sometimes, pain occurs after a specific event, such as bending your back or you may not know the cause of the pain.

Pain may be sharp or dull aching, and it may radiate to your bottom or down the back of your legs as in sciatica.

Other symptoms include:

-Stiffness. It may be hard to move or straighten your back.

-Posture problems. Many people with low back pain find it difficult to stand up straight.

-Muscle spasms. Muscle spasms may cause extreme pain and make it hard or even impossible to stand, walk or move.

  • What causes low back pain?

-Sprains and strains. Back strains and sprains are the most common cause of back pain.

Injuries of the muscles, tendons or ligaments can occur by lifting heavy objects or not lifting safely. Some people may strain their back by simple activities such as sneezing, coughing, twisting or bending over.

-Fractures. Lower back injury may result from a bad fall or a car accident. Certain conditions such as spondylolysis or osteoporosis increase the risk of fractures.

Arthritis of the spine. The most common type of arthritis to cause lower back pain is osteoarthritis. Ankylosing spondylitis also causes low back pain, inflammation and stiffness in the spine.

-Disc problems. The discs cushion the vertebrae. With age, discs get flatter and degenerate. Also, discs can bulge from their position in the spine and compress a nerve (herniated disc).

-Disease. Spine tumors and infections can cause low back pain. Other diseases including abdominal aortic aneurysm and kidney stones can also present with back pain.

Structural problems. A condition called spinal stenosis occurs when the spinal column is too narrow for the spinal cord. Scoliosis (curvature of the spine) can also lead to pain, stiffness and difficulty in movement.

  • How is low back pain diagnosed?

After your doctor takes full history and does physical examination, he may ask you to have:

Spine x-ray to produce images of bone

-MRI to create pictures of bones, muscles, tendons and other soft tissues.

CT scan, which uses X-rays and a computer to create 3D images of bones and soft tissues.

-Electromyography to test muscles and nerves to check for neuropathy

  • How to prevent low back pain?

You cannot avoid all causes of low back pain such as disease and structural problems but you can avoid injuries that cause back pain.

To reduce the risk of back injury you can:

Maintain a healthy weight

-Strengthen your abdominal muscles

  • How is low back pain treated?

Lower back pain usually gets better with rest, ice and over-the-counter pain relievers.

Different modalities of treatment include:


Pain relievers. Your doctor may recommend oral nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs to relieve pain.

Other drugs may include creams, ointments and patches to deliver pain-relieving substances through the skin.

Muscle Relaxants. Muscle relaxants help prevent back spasms but may cause dizziness and sleepiness.

Physical Therapy

Physical Therapy strengthens abdominal and back muscles, increases flexibility and improves posture

Surgery and other procedures

Cortisone Injections relieves pain and reduces inflammation but usually lasts only a month or two.

Surgery. Some conditions and injuries require surgical repair. These problems may be related to herniated discs or other conditions that narrow the openings within the spine.

  • Doctors and Departments

-Departments that treat this condition

-Doctors who treat this condition

Lower Back Pain