It’s not until you are dealing with pain in your lower back do you realize how often you use your back!

Every time you take a step, sit down, laugh, and breathe, you are activating your lower back muscles.

However, there is not just a single cause for lower back pain. The type of pain and where it is located can indicate a variety of conditions and problems resulting in your discomfort.

To help you better understand lower back pain, its symptoms, and its treatment options, here is River Stone Wellness’ guide to lower back pain:

Where is the Pain and What Does It Mean?

Lower back pain can refer to any pain or discomfort experienced in the lower portion of your back. Symptoms can include stiffness, issues with posture, muscle spasms, and pain.

However, the location of your lower back pain can help identify the cause and determine the best course of treatment.

Middle Back Pain

Middle back pain happens below the neck and above the bottom of the rib cage. This area is known as the “thoracic spine” and there are a number of reasons why you may be experiencing middle back pain:

  • Poor Posture
  • Obesity
  • Muscle Strain or Sprain
  • Falls and Injuries
  • Herniated Disk
  • Osteoarthritis
  • Age

Pain in the middle back can be short or long-term and can be treated with basic self-care or professional medical care, depending on the severity.

Lower Left Back Pain

Lower left back pain occurs along the left-hand side of the spine where there are discs, ligaments, and tendons along the spinal cord as well as organs such as the pancreas, colon, uterus, and kidney.

Pain in this area can be caused by strains, sprains, and other injuries as well as:

  • Sciatica
  • Herniated Disc
  • Osteoarthritis
  • Dysfunctional Sacroiliac Joints
  • Kidney Stones/Infections
  • Endometriosis
  • Fibroids
  • Pancreatitis
  • Ulcerative Colitis

Lower Right Back Pain

The same issues that cause lower left back pain can cause lower right back pain as well such as sprains, injuries, kidney issues, and more.

However, your appendix is located on this side of your body so pain in this area may be indicative of appendicitis.

Treatment for this area of your back can vary and is largely dependent on the root cause.

Sciatic Pain

Sciatica is a condition that causes pain along the sciatic nerve which is located in your lower back and branches through your hips and down each leg.

Most commonly, sciatica will only affect one side of your body.

Sciatica is typically caused by a bone spur on the spine or a herniated disc. This leads to pain, inflammation, and sometimes numbness in the leg.

Symptoms of sciatica include pain that radiates from your lower back down your leg and can vary from a sharp sensation to a dull ache.

The pain can be severe but sciatica can be treated without surgery over the course of a few weeks. 

Herniated Disc

A herniated disc occurs when a portion of your spinal disc, which cushions the vertebrae in your spine, becomes pushed out of place and into the spinal canal. Because the spinal canal is small, the disc presses on nerves and produces pain.

Herniated discs can happen along the spine but are more common in the lower back area. 

The symptoms of a herniated disc can vary depending on the size of the herniation but generally include:

  • Pain
  • Burning
  • Tingling
  • Numbness

If you have a herniated disc, you may notice that the pain worsens when you straighten your leg on the affected side. 

Most herniated discs do not require surgery and the symptoms generally improve over the course of a few days to a few weeks. However, physical therapy can be beneficial in encouraging a quick recovery.

Lower Back Pain in Pregnancy

pregnant woman touching her tummy and keeping one hand on her back

It is not uncommon for pregnant individuals to experience lower back pain that radiates throughout the buttock, thigh, and legs causing symptoms similar to sciatica.

The pain may be constant and can interfere with sleep, reduce overall functioning, and worsen with physical activity.

Lower back pain in pregnancy is caused by both postural and hormonal changes. The additional weight causes a change in posture which could aggravate the muscles and nerves of the lower back.

The hormones that cause the pelvic to loosen in preparation for childbirth can contribute to lower back pain in pregnancy as well.

If you are pregnant, you can seek back pain relief by staying physically active and engaging in gentle cardio and weightlifting exercises. You can also correct your posture by standing and sitting up straight, wearing supportive shoes, and avoiding movements that worsen the pain.

If the back pain associated with pregnancy persists, treatments such as physiotherapy, acupuncture, and chiropractic care are available to lessen the discomfort.

Chronic Back Pain

Chronic back pain refers to the pain that lasts more than three to six months or continues after injured tissue has healed.

Often, chronic pain does have a clearly determined cause but can be the result of improperly healed tissue or conditions such as fibromyalgia.

The most common chronic back pain issues include muscle deconditioning, improper posture, aging, genetics, traumatic events (such as a car accident or fall), and repetitious daily activities.

You can seek chronic back pain relief without surgery by seeking treatments such as physiotherapy.

It’s also important that you do not over-rest your back by limiting your movements. Doing so can worsen muscle deconditioning and cause more pain in the back muscle.

While you should try to avoid movements that aggravate the pain, it’s important to stay active. A professional physiotherapist can teach you how to perform pain-relieving movements throughout the day.

Lumbar Sprain

A lumbar sprain occurs when tendons and muscles in the lower back are injured and result in muscle spasms in your back. 

These injuries can occur if you engage in activities that require pushing and pulling movements and twisting of the lower back. 

Lumbar sprains can also happen if you have an excessive lower back curvature, weak back or abdominal muscles, tight hamstrings, and a forward-tilted pelvis.

The symptoms of lumbar strain include sudden lower back pain, back spasms that result in severe pain, or a lower back that feels sore to the touch.

A lumbar strain can resemble other medical conditions, so it’s important to seek a diagnosis from your healthcare provider.

Treatments for a lumbar strain include resting your back and applying ice packs and/or heat compressions.

There are certain exercises you can perform to strengthen your abdominal muscles and promote healing – all of which can be taught to you by an expert physiotherapist.

When Should I Seek Medical Help For My Lower Back Pain?

Although you can find back pain relief at home for many lower back issues, there are instances where you should seek medical help:

  • The pain spreads down your leg and below your knee.
  • Your legs are tingling, numb, or weak.
  • There is blood in your urine or you are experiencing new bowel/bladder issues.
  • Your lower back pain is accompanied by fever or abdominal pain.
  • You experienced an injury to your back.
  • You are inexplicably losing weight.
  • The pain is deep and continuous.

If ever you are in doubt about whether or not you should work through the pain or see a doctor, it’s always best to get a medical opinion to facilitate rapid healing and pain relief.

We Can Help With Lower Back Pain!

If you are dealing with lower back pain, come visit our Edmonton clinic!

Our expert team at River Stone Wellness is dedicated to supporting your healing journey and we don’t want you to wait any longer to seek treatment.

Come visit us at our Physiotherapy Edmonton clinic or book your appointment online!