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Low back pain is an ache or discomfort in the area of the lower part of the back and spinal column. The lower spinal column has many small bones that surround and protect the spinal cord and nerves. Low back pain is very common. It affects most adults at some point in their lives.
Bones of the Lower Back
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There are many possible causes for low back pain. Many times, the exact source of back pain is not known. Some causes of back pain include:
These factors increase your chance of developing low back pain:
Pain is usually restricted in the low back. It can get worse with back motion, sitting, standing, bending, and twisting. If a nerve is irritated, the pain may spread into the buttock or leg on the affected side. Muscle weakness or numbness may occur.
Often, back pain improves with self-treatment. However, some serious symptoms may occur. They may require more immediate medical attention. Call your doctor if back pain:
You should call your doctor if you have back pain and a history of cancer or osteoporosis. You should also call if you have a history of steroid use or IV drug use.
The doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done. The exam will focus on your back, hips, and legs. The doctor may test for strength, flexibility, sensation, and reflexes.
Your doctor may need pictures of your body structures. This can be done with:
It is important to keep in mind that imaging tests, may not be helpful or appropriate right after a back injury.
Your doctor may need your bodily fluids tested. This can be done with:
Your doctor may want to examine your bones using a bone scan.
Treatment options include:
Bed rest is not generally recommended. It may only be advised for not more than 1–2 days in those with severe back pain. Your doctor may recommend that you restrict certain activities for a period of time and then resume them as soon as possible. By staying active and exercising, you may be able to shorten your recovery time.
Medicines that your doctor may suggest include:
A physical therapy program may include:
If you have low back pain, follow your doctor's instructions.
The following steps may help you avoid low back pain: