Lower Back Pain

Understanding Your Condition

Lower Back Pain is a common condition that can make everyday activities painful and difficult. During your recovery, it is important to stay active and try to do as much of your normal routine as possible. This will help your back heal.

Lower Back Pain by the Numbers

How Does the Spine Work?

What Does Low Back Pain Feel Like?

Low back pain can be felt directly in the low back or spreading down to your buttocks, hips, or legs. Other symptoms vary greatly from person to person. Pain may come on slowly or suddenly, and feel sharp or dull. You may also feel stiffness or muscle spasms. Some people find that changing positions, reclining, or lying down helps relieve their symptoms.

What Causes Low Back Pain?

While there are many causes of low back pain, most people have “non-specific low back pain.” This means that there is not a specific disease or abnormality causing the pain. Common causes of low back pain include trauma, lack of physical activity, poor health, and poor or repetitive postures and movements. However, sometimes there is not a direct cause of low back pain.

You may have a higher chance of developing low back pain if you smoke, are overweight obese, do physically strenuous work, have a job where you sit down most of the time, have a stressful or dissatisfying job, or if you experience anxiety of depression.

What Can I Do?

When to Contact Your Healthcare Provider

Seek medical attention if you experience any of the following:

  • Your back pain is a result of a fall or an accident
  • You are 70 years or older with a new onset of back pain
  • Pain that does not go away, even at night or when lying down
  • Weakness in one or both legs
  • Problems with bladder, bowel, or sexual function
  • Unexplained fever or rapid weight loss when not trying to lose weight
  • If you have a history of cancer, a weakened immune system, or osteoporosis
  • Your back pain does not improve within 4 weeks.

• Deyo, RA, Mirza SK, Martin BI. Back pain prevalence and visit rates: estimates from US national surveys, 2002. Spine. 2006;31:2724-7.
• Ngyuen TH and Randolph DC. Nonspecific Low Back Pain and Return to Work. Am Fam Physician. 2007; 15:76(10):1479-1502.
• Patel, AT and Abna OA. Diagnosis and Management of Acute Low Back Pain. Am Fam Physician. 2000;15;61(6):1779-1786