How to determine the cause of lower back pain?

Lower back pain has a very variable etiology. If a person has lower back pain, it is possible that he has a degenerative disease, for example, arthritis, or he has received an acute injury. Each disease has several specific symptoms, so you can exclude some of them by paying attention to the patient’s complaints. If the pain persists, it is best to consult a doctor for an official diagnosis.

Part 1 Common Causes of Minor Pain

Think about the recent injury. If a person has recently had an accident, the pain may be caused by an injury. In particular, if the discomfort began shortly after the injury, it is much more likely to suffer from an acute attack, rather than from a degenerative disease.

There are many different types of injuries, including a fall, a car accident, or too intense training in the gym.

In some cases, it’s a minor injury that heals on its own, but it can also be something more serious. If the pain persists for several days, you need to see a doctor make sure that the injury does not deserve medical attention.

Lower back pain

Sprains are common during exercise but often go away within a week without a doctor’s intervention.

Evaluate your activity level. Prolonged sitting, especially at the computer, can cause lower back pain. Although inactivity sometimes leads to back diseases that require specialist care, often the treatment is as simple as the cause itself. If lower back pain occurs due to a too sedentary lifestyle, it is worth increasing the level of activity to find some relief.

Try to get up more often to take a break from work during the day. It is important to leave your desktop at least once every 60 minutes, you can set reminders on your computer or watch to fulfill this obligation.

  • If possible, use the table to work standing up, so as not to sit all day.
  • If you are unable to move during working hours, it is worth increasing comfort by using pillows to support the lower back or an ergonomic chair.
  • If these remedies do not improve the situation, a more serious problem may arise, so it is worth making an appointment with a doctor.

Remember your sleep habits. Improper sleep or an unsuitable mattress can cause lower back pain. By changing your habits or buying a better mattress, you will easily get rid of ailments.

The lying position is the worst for the lower back, it’s worth trying to lie on your back to see if the pain will subside. You can also put a pillow under your knees for extra support or sleep on your side with a pillow between your knees. You can try pillows of different thicknesses until you find one that fits.

The mattress should be firm to support the back, but not too rigid so that there is no discomfort in the shoulders. Medium stiffness models tend to be the best fit for most people.

Analyze shoes. Shoes must support the health of the spine. If a person often wears uncomfortable or poorly supported shoes, this habit can become a source of pain.

Avoid high heels, as they change the position of the spine. If you chose a low model, you need to make sure that the shoes support the foot – flat shoes, such as flip-flops, have as bad an effect on the back as high, if not worse.

Follow the technique of lifting the load. In some cases, lower back pain occurs because a person does not tolerate heavy objects, especially if the work lasted for a long time. If you often have to carry bags or other similar loads, you need to try to reduce their weight to see if they will affect lower back pain.

Children often complain of back pain due to heavy backpacks. To prevent this from happening, be sure to make sure that the weight of the child’s backpack does not exceed 20% of his body weight.

Weight physical activity.

back pain during activity

Sometimes lower back pain occurs due to excessive activity, especially if a person is out of shape or does sports from time to time. It is worth performing exercises that could contribute to the disease. For example, sports such as golf involve repetitive torso turns and often cause pain.

Running is also a factor responsible for this disorder. Running on an uneven surface or treadmill also causes problems associated with foot pronation, which impairs muscle movement and spread back pain.

Part 2 Evaluate the symptoms

Assess the location and type of pain. There are many different types of lower back pain. By determining the exact sore spot, as well as the type of pain (painful, burning, acute, etc.), you can track the cause.

  • Spondylolisthesis can provoke pain in the lower back, buttocks, and legs.
    If the pain is acute and isolated in one side of the lower back, it may be kidney stones.
  • Irritation of the sciatic nerve causes pain and tingling in the lower back, which, however, can spread to the leg and/or foot.
  • Osteochondrosis of the lumbar spine often causes attacks of pain or painful numbness in the back.
  • Fibromyalgia is characterized by widespread pain in many parts of the body, including the lower back.
  • Discomfort caused by muscle knots is usually localized or spreads to the buttocks or upper thighs.

However, it must be remembered that lower back pain is a complex disease, and sometimes the symptoms do not correspond to the diagnosis. That is why it is so important to undergo a full examination by a doctor so that he can recognize the disease and determine the cause of suffering.

Remember when discomfort occurs. Various pathologies of the lower back can cause painful sensations with certain actions or positions. It is worth writing down when the disorder began, which movements seem to aggravate it, and which poses have a calming effect.

  • If the situation worsens in the standing position, leaning back or twisting the trunk, but improves when leaning forward, the problem may affect the articular processes of the vertebrae.
  • If the pain occurs for no apparent reason and is accompanied by a feeling of “cotton”, it may be sciatica.
    If the pain increases while sitting, it may be a herniated disc.
  • If a person feels worse when walking, but feels relieved when leaning forward or sitting down, the cause of the pain may be spinal canal stenosis, a narrowing of the gaps between various elements of the spine.
  • Discomfort that appears and disappears during the day may be associated with an internal organ, such as a kidney or pancreas.

Beware of numbness and weakness. Several other diseases can cause these symptoms in addition to lower back pain. In this case, it is important to tell the doctor very precisely the exact location and intensity of the discomfort to determine the underlying cause.

  • Spondylolisthesis is a source of weakness in the back and legs.
  • Spinal stenosis causes problems with weakness when walking.
  • Sciatica usually causes this symptom only on one leg.
  • Infections are a source of general weakness, fever, and chills.
  • Ponytail syndrome, severe damage to the spinal cord, causes numbness in the genital area and the inner surface of the thighs.

Part 3 Undergo a medical examination to confirm the diagnosis

When a person goes to a doctor about lower back pain, he undergoes a comprehensive medical examination, which includes a series of tests designed to determine the exact location of the pain. The doctor evaluates the possibility of performing one or more specific tests based on symptoms.

The Patrick test (also known as the FABER test) allows you to identify pathologies affecting the sacroiliac joint.

The presence of the Lasega sign makes it possible to identify a herniated disc. The doctor asks you to lie on your back and lift one leg, holding it straight, if the patient experiences pain when moving, most likely it is a hernia.

The doctor will ask you to lean back to see the stenosis of the spinal column. Patients suffering from this pathology complain of pain during this movement.

Take blood tests.

The doctor will likely want to conduct laboratory tests. Oddly enough, this is an important diagnostic tool. Blood tests make it possible to exclude underlying conditions that may contribute to lower back pain, such as infections.

Blood test

Take an X-ray. This is often the first check that a doctor requires to try to determine the cause of the pain.

It is a useful diagnostic tool for recognizing bone problems such as fractures and bone spurs, but it cannot detect pathologies affecting soft tissues.

Radiographs are only a part of the tools available to the doctor for making a diagnosis. X-rays are not enough to give a definitive answer. There are people whose X-rays show degenerative changes, but they do not feel pain. For example, disc degeneration, osteoarthritis of the articular process (zygapophysis), and osteophytes occur in almost 90% of the population over 64 years old.

Do an MRI or CT scan. If the doctor believes that the pain is caused by a soft tissue disease, he will probably ask for this examination. Both procedures allow you to recreate images of tissues, including ligaments, cartilage, and intervertebral discs.

These are useful tests for the diagnosis of diseases such as herniated disc, spinal canal stenosis, and degenerative joint diseases. However, the doctor compares the results of these tests with other results to come to a logical conclusion about the patient’s health. Positive MRI results do not necessarily cause concern, as studies have shown that 52 to 81% of asymptomatic patients have a protruding disc.

Do a bone scan. Although this is not as common a procedure as other imaging techniques, it is sometimes used to get a better view of the bones and involves injecting a small amount of radioactive material into the patient’s body before taking images.

Bone scanning is very effective in detecting tumors and osteoporosis.

Undergo electromyography (EMG). If there are symptoms such as numbness or painful bouts of pain, the doctor may choose this test, which measures the electrical activity of the body to diagnose nerve damage or compression.

Both nerve damage and compression can be caused by several causes, such as a herniated disc or spinal canal stenosis. EMG cannot pinpoint the source of the neurological problem, but the procedure helps the doctor understand the underlying disease you are facing.


Self-diagnosis of a problem can do more harm than good. If there are serious symptoms or they last more than a few days, you need to see a doctor immediately.

There are many less common causes of lower back pain, including cancer, aneurysm, and uterine fibroids.

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