The majority of people will experience some form of back pain in their lifetime. In fact, it's known that back pain is the second leading cause of people missing work. In addition, women are even more likely to encounter chronic back pain than men. The discrepancy in the ratio of women to men back pain can be attributed to a variety of things. For example, pelvic structure, hormonal factors, pregnancy, and more. It can be difficult to understand what is causing your back pain or to distinguish between different conditions. Often times knowing what is happening to your back comes down to something as simple as the location of the pain.
The use of lumbar supports in the form of wide elastic bands that can be tightened to provide support to the lower back and abdominal muscles to prevent low back pain remains controversial. Such supports are widely used despite a lack of evidence showing that they actually prevent pain. Multiple studies have determined that the use of lumbar supports provides no benefit in terms of the prevention and treatment of back pain. Although there have been anecdotal case reports of injury reduction among workers using lumbar support belts, many companies that have back belt programs also have training and ergonomic awareness programs. The reported injury reduction may be related to a combination of these or other factors. Furthermore, some caution is advised given that wearing supportive belts may actually lead to or aggravate back pain by causing back muscles to weaken from lack of use.
Ulcerative Colitis. An inflammatory bowel disease, ulcerative colitis is marked by persistent inflammation mostly in the large intestine, also called the colon. Inflammation usually causes chronic digestive issues such as diarrhea, rectal pain, and weight loss. Abdominal cramping is a common symptom of ulcerative colitis, causing sharp back and abdominal pain on one or both sides of the body.
My original inspiration for this tutorial was Dr. John Sarno’s 1984 book Mind over back pain. (His more recent Healing back pain makes too many empty promises. See my review.) However, as much as I respect Dr. Sarno’s early work, there are at least three reasons why this tutorial is better than his books: (1) I make a much more airtight case against the conventional medical myths of back pain than Dr. Sarno does; (2) I also build a much better case for the real causes of back pain, heavily referencing more credible sources than Dr. Sarno does; (3) and I offer many more practical suggestions than Dr. Sarno does, instead of focusing exclusively on the psychological factors. Although I have less experience and education than Dr. Sarno, I do have a lot more hands-on experience (and the useful perspective of a journalist). BACK TO TEXT
Along with the symptoms mentioned above, middle back pain may also be joined with separate symptoms that include anxiety, depression, fatigue, fever, and headaches. Redness, warmth, or swelling in the back is also associated with middle back pain, as well as sleeping problems, stiffness of the back in the morning, and shoulder, neck, and hip pains.
Pinheiro, M. B., Ferreira, M. L., Refshauge, K., Ordoñana, J. R., Machado, G. C., Prado, L. R., ... Ferreira, P. H. (2015, November). Symptoms of depression and risk of new episodes of low back pain: A systematic review and meta-analysis [Abstract]. Arthritis Care & Research, 67(11), 1591–1603. Retrieved from http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/acr.22619/abstract
Medications: A wide range of medications are used to treat acute and chronic low back pain. Some are available over the counter (OTC); others require a physician’s prescription. Certain drugs, even those available OTC, may be unsafe during pregnancy, may interact with other medications, cause side effects, or lead to serious adverse effects such as liver damage or gastrointestinal ulcers and bleeding. Consultation with a health care provider is advised before use. The following are the main types of medications used for low back pain:
Example: a friend of mine went to the hospital after a motorcycle accident. He’d flown over a car and landed hard on his head. Bizarrely, he was sent home with very little care, and no imaging of his back, even though he was complaining of severe lower back pain. A doctor reassured him that it was just muscle spasms. (This all happened at a hospital that was notorious for being over-crowded and poorly run.) The next day, still in agony, he went to see a doctor at a walk-in clinic, who immediately took him for an x-ray … which identified a serious lumbar fracture and imminent danger of paralysis. He had been lucky to get through the night without disaster! He was placed on a spine board immediately and sent for surgery. The moral of the story? Sometimes, when you’ve had a major trauma and your back really hurts, it’s because your back is broken. BACK TO TEXT
THIS TOOL DOES NOT PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. It is intended for general informational purposes only and does not address individual circumstances. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment and should not be relied on to make decisions about your health. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment because of something you have read on the WebMD Site. If you think you may have a medical emergency, immediately call your doctor or dial 911.
Sciatica and nerve related conditions causing nerve compression, particularly on the left side can cause left lower back pain which can extend into the left buttocks. It can be associated with numbness and tingling in the left leg. If the condition affects both sides, both legs may be involved. Injury or damage to a nerve in the lower back can cause sharp, severe left lower back pain.
The Child’s Pose is a yoga position that is especially beneficial for the back. To perform Child’s Pose, start on all fours, then stretch back, resting your bottom on your feet. Your arms should stay extended with your hands on the floor. This creates a stretch in your lower back. Hold this pose for 30 seconds, then return to your starting position. Repeat five times.
The content and materials provided in this web site are for informational and educational purposes only and are not intended to supplement or comprise a medical diagnosis or other professional opinion, or to be used in lieu of a consultation with a physician or competent health care professional for medical diagnosis and/or treatment. All content and materials including research papers, case studies and testimonials summarizing patients' responses to care are intended for educational purposes only and do not imply a guarantee of benefit. Individual results may vary, depending upon several factors including age of the patient, severity of the condition, severity of the spinal injury, and duration of time the condition has been present.
Take a deep breath: how does that feel? If “extremely painful” is your answer, get checked out. One emergency-worthy cause is a pulmonary embolism, says Dr. Tien. “Blood clots can break off from a deep vein in the leg or arm and travel to the lung, wedging in blood vessels, causing poor blood flow, inflammation, and death of lung tissue,” she explains. If your back pain gets worse with a deep breath, you’re short of breath, you’re coughing up blood, or you feel faint, call 911. Here’s what you should do if you find yourself waking up with back pain.
The lumbar spine (lower back) consists of five vertebrae in the lower part of the spine between the ribs and the pelvis. The bones (vertebrae) that form the spine in the back are cushioned by small discs. These discs are round and flat, with a tough, outer layer (annulus) that surrounds a jellylike material called the nucleus. Located between each of the vertebra in the spinal column, discs act as shock absorbers for the spinal bones. Thick ligaments attached to the vertebrae hold the pulpy disc material in place. Of the 31 pairs of spinal nerves and roots, five lumbar (L1-L5) and five sacral (S1-S5) nerve pairs connect beginning in the area of the lower back.
Enthoven WT, Geuze J, Scheele J, et al. Prevalence and "Red Flags" Regarding Specified Causes of Back Pain in Older Adults Presenting in General Practice. Phys Ther. 2016 Mar;96(3):305–12. PubMed #26183589. How many cases of back pain in older adults have a serious underlying cause? Only about 6% … but 5% of those are fractures (which are serious, but they aren’t cancer either). The 1% is divided amongst all other serious causes. In this study of 669 patients, a vertebral fracture was found in 33 of them, and the chances of this diagnosis was higher in older patients with more intense pain in the upper back, and (duh) trauma. BACK TO TEXT
The majority of back pain seen in primary care is nonspecific with no identifiable causes. Common identifiable causes of back pain include degenerative or traumatic changes to the discs and facets joints, which can then cause secondary pain in the muscles, and nerves, and referred pain to the bones, joints and extremities. Diseases and inflammation of the gallbladder, pancreas, aorta, and kidneys may also cause referred pain in the back. Tumors of the verteba, neural tissues and adjacent structures can also manifest as back pain.
15 possible causes of abdominal pain Abdominal pain occurs in the area between the chest and the pelvis. It can relate to different organs, such as the stomach, gallbladder, or large intestine. Causes include gas and menstrual cramps, and treatment will depend on the cause. Find out more about stomach pain, and when to seek medical attention. Read now
Spinal manipulation: Osteopathic or chiropractic manipulation appears to be beneficial in people during the first month of symptoms. Studies on this topic have produced conflicting results. The use of manipulation for people with chronic back pain has been studied as well, also with conflicting results. The effectiveness of this treatment remains unknown. Manipulation has not been found to benefit people with nerve root problems.
Battié MC, Videman T, Kaprio J, et al. The Twin Spine Study: contributions to a changing view of disc degeneration. Spine J. 2009;9(1):47–59. PubMed #19111259.“The once commonly held view that disc degeneration is primarily a result of aging and wear and tear from mechanical insults and injuries was not supported by this series of studies. Instead, disc degeneration appears to be determined in great part by genetic influences. Although environmental factors also play a role, it is not primarily through routine physical loading exposures (eg, heavy vs. light physical demands) as once suspected.” BACK TO TEXT
Your doctor will first ask you many questions regarding the onset of the pain. (Were you lifting a heavy object and felt an immediate pain? Did the pain come on gradually?) He or she will want to know what makes the pain better or worse. The doctor will ask you questions referring to the red flag symptoms. He or she will ask if you have had the pain before. Your doctor will ask about recent illnesses and associated symptoms such as coughs, fevers, urinary difficulties, or stomach illnesses. In females, the doctor will want to know about vaginal bleeding, cramping, or discharge. Pain from the pelvis, in these cases, is frequently felt in the back.
Poor posture: This is a major risk factor for middle back pain, particularly if you have a desk job and are in the habit of hunching over a keyboard for long periods of time. You can stop middle back pain (and upper back pain) before it starts by getting into the habit of sitting up straight and doing frequent shoulder rolls and lifts in order to loosen the muscles of your upper back.
Most low back pain is acute, or short term, and lasts a few days to a few weeks. It tends to resolve on its own with self-care and there is no residual loss of function. The majority of acute low back pain is mechanical in nature, meaning that there is a disruption in the way the components of the back (the spine, muscle, intervertebral discs, and nerves) fit together and move.