Low Back Pain: Symptoms, Causes, Treatments

Symptoms of low back pain

Low back pain can manifest in a variety of ways, including:

  • A dull ache
  • A sharp, stabbing pain
  • Muscle spasms
  • Pain that radiates down the buttocks and legs (sciatica)
  • Difficulty standing, sitting, or walking
  • Reduced range of motion in the back
  • Numbness or weakness in the legs

Causes of low back pain

The most common causes of low back pain include:

  • Muscle strain or ligament sprain
  • Bulging or herniated disc
  • Arthritis
  • Osteoporosis
  • Spinal stenosis
  • Kidney stones
  • Endometriosis
  • Pregnancy

Treatments for low back pain

Treatment for low back pain will vary depending on the underlying cause and severity of the pain. Most cases of low back pain can be treated with self-care measures, such as:

  • Rest
  • Over-the-counter pain relievers
  • Ice or heat therapy
  • Gentle stretching and exercise

If self-care measures are not effective, your doctor may recommend other treatments, such as:

  • Physical therapy
  • Prescription pain medication
  • Injections (e.g., corticosteroids)
  • Surgery

Preventing low back pain

There are a number of things you can do to prevent low back pain, including:

  • Maintain a healthy weight
  • Exercise regularly
  • Use proper lifting techniques
  • Practice good posture
  • Avoid smoking

If you have a job that requires a lot of heavy lifting or sitting, make sure to take breaks throughout the day to move around and stretch.

When to see a doctor

You should see a doctor if your low back pain is severe, does not improve with self-care measures, or is accompanied by other symptoms, such as fever, weight loss, or numbness or weakness in the legs.