Most lower back pain doesn’t require immediate medical attention. Short term pain typically gets better on its own with self-care and there is no major loss of function. Severe or persistent lower back pain, on the other hand, should be evaluated by a doctor.
While there are many causes of low back pain, most cases of low back pain can typically be linked to either a general cause or specific condition, such as degenerative disc disease or a lumbar herniated disc.
Since the lower back is complex (spinal muscles, nerves, bones, discs, and tendons), there can be a variety of problems. Typical sources of low back pain may include:
- Nerve roots in the low back may be irritated
- An intervertebral disc may be deteriorating
- Bones, ligaments or joints may be damaged
- Smaller nerves may be irritated
- The larger lower back muscles may be strained
Any single conditions may cause the patient pain. Moreover, it’s not uncommon to see a patient with a combination of these conditions. These sources may cause pain that radiates to other parts of the body or may be contained to the low back. Additionally, many lower back conditions also lead to back muscle spasms – which can cause severe pain and disability.
Lower Back Pain is Common:
Nevertheless, just because low back pain is common doesn’t mean that you should ignore the symptoms. On more than one occasion we have chronicled why you may be suffering from lower back pain and how to correct it:
- Poor posture leads to severe back pain
- Exercises for lower back pain
- No amount of exercise is too small for back pain relief
- Recurring lower back pain
- Low back pain causing leg pain and numbness
Symptoms and severity vary from patient to patient, but pain shouldn’t simply be ignored. A rather simple muscle strain may be enough to cause you severe amounts of pain, while a deteriorating disc may only cause mild discomfort.
Low Back Pain in Younger versus Older Patients:
While nearly everyone will experience back pain at some point, back pain has different tendencies in younger individuals versus older adults:
- Younger adults (20 to 50 year olds) are more likely to experience back from from disc space or from a muscle or soft tissue strain
- Older adults (over 50) are more likely to suffer from compression fractures or joint degenerative pain (ex. osteoarthritis or spinal stenosis)
No matter your age, seeking a professional opinion is always recommended. A specialist will be able to identify symptoms and pinpoint a diagnosis for the pain. It should be amongst the first steps in obtaining effective pain relief.
Lower Back Pain: Signs You Should See A Doctor
According to the National Institutes of Health, about 80 percent of adults experience lower back pain at some point in their lifetimes. Men and women are equally affected by low back pain, which can range in intensity from a dull ache to sudden, sharp pains that leave you incapacitated. Lower back pain can be caused by a variety of conditions, including muscle strain, sciatica, bulging disc, osteoarthritis, fracture, and degenerative disc disease.
In general, the following guidelines can be used to determine if you should see a doctor to evaluate your lower back pain symptoms.
- Pain that lasts more than 2-4 weeks
- Ongoing pain that appears to be getting worse with time
- Unexplained fever accompanied by back pain
- Sudden upper back pain
- Pain that interferes with your normal daily activities (picking up items, doing household work, etc.)
- Severe pain that does not respond to traditional home remedies (such as rest, ice, or ibuprofen)
- Pain present in both your lower back and abdominal area
- Low back pain accompanied by numbness or a tingling sensation in other areas of the body
- Severe pain that wakes you up in the middle of the night
- Any back pain that occurs after an accident such as a fall or car accident
If you are ever in doubt about whether to consult your doctor about your pain condition, it is better to err on the side of caution. A quick phone call to the staff at Metropolitan Pain Consultants (201-729-0001) can help assess if you should be seen by one of our expert physicians. A complete medical history and physical exam with one of our doctors can usually identify if a serious condition may be causing your lower back pain.