Lower back pain can produce a wide range of uncomfortable or painful symptoms that vary from case to case. While there are many causes of lower back pain, most lower back pain cases relate to either a general reason, like a muscle strain, or a specific cause, like a herniated disc. Lower back pain is one of the most common conditions in the U.S with at least four out of five adults experiencing it at some point in their lives. It’s no surprise then, that it is one of the leading causes of physician visits.
Low back pain is typically classified as either acute or chronic. Acute lower back pain is short term, generally lasting from a few days to a few weeks. Some acute pain syndromes can become more serious if left untreated. Chronic lower back pain is generally defined as pain that persists for more than three months. The pain may be progressive, or may occasionally flare up and then return to a lower level of pain. With chronic pain, the exact cause of the pain can sometimes be difficult to determine.
Back pain symptoms can vary from mild to severe, depending on what’s causing it. The causes of low back pain can be very complex, ranging from nerve irritation to bone damage. However, each cause produces very uncomfortable symptoms that include:
- Pain in the lower back, also known as the lumbosacral area, is the main symptom. It may be worsened by engaging in strenuous activity, sleeping, or after sitting or standing for extended periods of time.
- Continuous stiffness or achiness along your spine- from the top of your hips to the base of your neck.
- Severe muscle spasms can result from standing too long, sitting, moving too quickly, etc.
- Pain may be limited to just the lower back or it could trickle down the front, side, or back of your thigh. The pain can also shoot down the back of the leg, and into the calf and toes, which makes walking particularly uncomfortable.
- If back pain is caused by a compressed nerve, you may have numbness or weakness in the part of the leg that the compressed nerve effects.
- If the first sacral nerve is compressed or injured, it can cause issues with foot mobility. You will no longer be able to flex the foot, stand on your toes or bring your foot downward.
- When the fifth lumbar nerve is damaged or strained, you will lose the ability to lift your big toe upward.
If you suffer from lower back pain or any of the above symptoms, visit your doctor immediately. While the pain may seem manageable, it could be a sign of a bigger problem. The doctor will likely recommend physical therapy for lower back pain in order to get you back to enjoying a pain-free, healthy life.