What types of spine conditions are the most painful?

LOWER BACK PAIN

Lower back pain can be caused by a variety of problems with any parts of the complex, interconnected network of spinal muscles, nerves, bones, discs or tendons in the lumbar spine. Typical sources of low back pain include:

  • The large nerve roots in the low back that go to the legs may be irritated
  • The smaller nerves that supply the low back may be irritated
  • The large paired lower back muscles may be strained
  • The bones, ligaments or joints may be damaged
  • An intervertebral disc may be degenerating

(Ullrich Jr., MD, 2015)

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EMERGENCY RESPONSE

When to Seek Immediate Treatment for Lower Back Pain
Most cases of low back pain do not require urgent care, but anyone should see a doctor immediately if low back pain is a result of trauma, or if pain is accompanied by any of the following symptoms:

  • Fever and chills
  • Unexplained recent weight loss
  • Significant leg weakness
  • Sudden bowel and/or bladder incontinence—either difficulty passing urine or having a bowel movement, or loss of control of urination or bowel movement (cauda equina syndrome)
  • Severe, continuous abdominal pain (abdominal aortic aneurysm)

TREATMENT

Treatment for lower back pain depends upon the patient’s history and the type and severity of pain.

The vast majority of lower back pain cases get better within six weeks without surgery, and lower back pain exercises are almost always part of a treatment plan.

If pain persists or worsens, more involved diagnostic and surgical procedures may be recommended.

Click to learn about Lumbar Disc Herniation, and Lumbar Spinal Stenosis, common causes of lower back pain.

lower back pain

PREVENTION

There is no clear evidence that you can prevent low back pain. But there are some things you can do that may help prevent it. And they can prepare you for faster recovery if you do have low back pain.

  • Exercise to keep your back healthy and strong.
  • Learn how to lift objects safely to protect your back.
  • Think about your posture, whether you are sitting or standing.
  • Try different sleeping positions that protect your back.
  • Wear low-heeled shoes.
  • Stay at a healthy weight to avoid excess strain on your lower back. For more information, see the topic Weight Management.
  • If you smoke, quit.
  • Eat a healthy diet.
  • Manage stress.

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