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Unfortunately, lower back pain is the number one cause of disability around the world. In the U.S. alone, 39% of adults have experienced back pain in the last year. Lower back pain specifically can be caused by a variety of different conditions and injuries. Whether you overused your back muscles while working or woke up in sudden pain, knowing the source of your back pain can help you get started on treatment. Symptoms of lower back pain can include:
- Achiness throughout the day.
- Difficulty twisting or bending.
- Shooting pain back down the legs.
- Tenderness at the site of pain.
- Redness and swelling.
- Your pain lasts more than four weeks.
- Your pain is accompanied by extreme weakness or fever.
- Your pain is a result of a major injury or accident.
Why is your back killing you?There are several reasons why your lower back pain may feel like it’s killing you. The following reasons could be behind your back pain:
- Herniated disc —Your lumbar discs are the spongy tissue in between your vertebrae. Their main job is to absorb shock in the spine. When there is continual weight and stress placed on your vertebrae, however, your discs can break down and even rupture. A herniated disc can irritate your nerves and cause intense pain. Most disc herniations happen in the lower lumbar spine, or within the five vertebrae in the lower back. As a result, pain from a herniated disc can radiate from your lower back.
- Muscle strain — Muscle strains occur when you stretch or tear a muscle due to overuse or trauma. You can strain muscles in your back after overexercising or making a sudden forceful twist or pull. You can avoid muscle strains in your lower back by keeping your spine in a neutral position while lifting heavy objects. While in pain, however, you can perform gentle back-strengthening exercises to boost your healing process.
- Arthritis of the spine — Arthritis is the most frequent cause of lower back pain. Arthritis, or the inflammation of joints, can occur within your spine or in the joint between your spine and pelvis. Signs of arthritis in your spine include stiffness and achiness throughout the day. It can also make it painful and difficult to bend down. Since there are dozens of types of arthritis, your doctor will need to perform tests to determine if you are affected by one of them.
- Kidney issues — Your kidneys are located below your rib cage, in the middle of your back. Kidney issues like kidney stones or infection can lead to a feeling of pain in your lower back. Your doctor can order bloodwork or imaging tests like an MRI and ultrasound to determine if kidney issues are the source of your lower back pain.
- Sciatica — If your lower back pain feels like it’s shooting down your legs, you may have a condition called sciatica. Sciatica occurs when your sciatic nerve, which travels from your back to your legs, becomes compressed and inflamed. Tingling, numbness and shooting pain down your back are telltale signs of sciatica.
What can you do if your lower back is killing you?Thankfully, many treatments can help relieve your lower back pain. The following are some of the most effective, noninvasive techniques for back pain that may be killing you:
- Heat — Applying heat to your painful back can encourage blood flow to your injury. It can also help reduce pain and improve your sense of well-being.
- Exercise — Exercise is one of the major ways you can relieve back pain. Gentle stretches and strengthening exercises can release tension in stiff muscles and improve your mobility. Physical therapists can introduce you to effective exercises that can target your pain. They can also engage your tissue in innovative techniques like myofascial release.
- Rest — If your lower back pain was caused by an overuse injury, it can be important to let your back rest to heal. You can alternate with gentle exercises and rest to boost your recovery.