Lower back pain is an ache or discomfort in the lower part of the spinal column. It may radiate down into one or both legs. The lower spinal column consists of small, stacked bones (the vertebrae) that surround and protect the spinal cord and nerves.
Concerned about lower back pain? Please call our Joint and Spine Center Navigator at (615) 781-5870 to make an appointment with one of our specialists.
Lower Back Pain Symptoms
The pain can be achy or sharp in nature. It can be associated with difficulty doing everyday tasks. Stress on the muscles and ligaments that support the spine produce strain on tissues causing the back pain. There can be other, more serious causes.
If a nerve is irritated, the pain may extend into the buttock or leg on the affected side, and weakness or numbness may be present.
Other symptoms may include burning, tingling, or a shooting pain down the back of one leg. This is often called “sciatica.” However, the nerve involved is usually a spinal nerve, and only occasionally the sciatic nerve. Sciatica is known by many other medical terms, such as lumbosacral radicular pain or radiculopathy.
Your healthcare provider will ask about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done. Your back, hips, and legs and will be tested for strength, flexibility, sensation, and reflexes. Medical tests are not routinely required for back pain and sciatica.
If necessary, tests may include:
- CT scan
- MRI scan
- Blood Tests
- Urine test
- Nerve condution study
Most episodes of acute back pain resolve on their own over several weeks. In these cases, the information from an x-ray or MRI scan may not change the medical plan, so these tests may be unnecessary. An MRI scan or x-ray is usually ordered if there is a plan to do a procedure or surgery based on the result of the images.
The treatment and management of low back pain and sciatica involves lifestyle changes and may include medication, surgery, or other treatments. Most patients recover, but some develop chronic back pain.
Reducing Your Risk
You can reduce your risk of developing low back pain and sciatica by reducing the stress on your back. Guidelines for reducing stress on your back include:
- Support your back when lifting, standing, and sitting.
- Practice good posture.
- Lose weight if you are overweight.
- Exercise regularly.
- If you smoke, quit.
- Manage stress.
Still concerned about lower back pain? Please call our Joint and Spine Center Navigator at (615) 781-5870 to make an appointment with one of our specialists.