Overview of Lower Back Pain and Sciatica

Overview of Lower Back Pain

Sooner or later in your life, you’re bound to experience some form of lower back pain. Your back may hurt if you overexert yourself or strain it lifting a heavy object. It may grow sore from sitting too long or standing with poor posture. In many of these cases, the back pain is mild and goes away after a few days of rest and pain medication.

Some cases of lower back pain are more severe and long lasting and require professional help. It’s important to find treatment because ignoring back pain can lead to more severe problems or permanent disability. When you have serious lower back pain, you should seek treatment from a physical therapist.

Symptoms of lower back pain

Learn about the symptoms of lower back pain to better understand when you need to get help. Both serious and mild back pain will have symptoms that include:

  • Dull persistent ache or sharp and stinging pain
  • Pain runs from your back into your legs
  • Pain grows worse when bending or walking or standing

If you show signs of these symptoms, you may just need a few days of taking it easy and using some over-the-counter pain relievers.

Signs of serious lower back pain include:

  • Pain is extreme or lasts for a long time
  • Weakness and numbness
  • Pain causes bowel or bladder issues
  • Fever
  • Uncontrollable weight loss

Symptoms of sciatica

The sciatic nerve is the longest nerve in your body that runs from your lower back into your legs. Some of your symptoms might be a sign of sciatica. This is a condition in which the sciatic nerve becomes inflamed or irritated, causing pain and numbness in the lower back. Signs of sciatica include:

  • Pain that starts in the lower back and spreads into one of your legs (it can rarely affect both legs)
  • The pain is sharp and burning
  • Numbness
  • Difficulty sitting or standing

If you notice any of these lower back pain or sciatica symptoms, you should seek professional help. Additionally, you should seek help if your pain follows a hard impact like an automobile accident or a sports injury.

Causes of lower back pain and sciatica

Identifying the cause of your back pain will help your health care professional come up with the right treatment. Common causes of lower back pain include:

  • Muscle strain — Repetitive lifting or overuse of your back can strain the muscles and ligaments, which produces pain that is usually temporary but can be serious.
  • Slipped or burst disc — The discs that cushion your vertebrae can slip or burst, which puts pressure on the nerve in your spine and causes pain. This is one of the most common causes of sciatica.
  • Bone spurs — This is an overgrowth of one of the bones in your vertebrae that can pinch or irritate the nerve in your spine.
  • Arthritis — Arthritis can wear down the discs between your vertebrae which causes pain and bone spurs to develop. Some forms of arthritis also cause the spine to become more narrow and put pressure on the nerve.
  • Osteoporosis — This condition causes your bones to become more fragile, which can damage your vertebrae.

Illnesses like fibromyalgia, meningitis or cancer can also cause back pain. Your back pain may also be related to a chronic spinal condition like scoliosis.

Diagnosing your back pain and sciatica

Since there are so many causes of lower back pain and sciatica, your health care provider will examine your symptoms and run tests to make an accurate diagnosis to develop an effective treatment, including:

  • CT scan
  • X-ray
  • MRI
  • Blood analysis
  • Bone scan
  • EMG – to test for nerve function

Treating lower back pain and sciatica

Many treatments involve the use of medications to help relieve pain and relax strained muscles. Physicians will often recommend visiting a physical therapist for treatment.

Many physical therapy treatments focus on reducing pain to help you feel better and building strength and flexibility to treat the cause of your pain. Physical therapy treatments differ depending on the nature and severity of the condition and individual factors like age and medical history, but they generally include:

  • Massage
  • Stretches and exercises
  • Cold and hot therapy
  • Ultrasound
  • Electrical stimulation
  • Controlled movements

Schedule an appointment for lower back pain at Advent Physical Therapy

If you or someone you know is suffering from lower back pain, you should speak with a physical therapist at Advent Physical Therapy about treatment. Contact us today to schedule an appointment and find out how physical therapy can help reduce your pain and get you back to doing the things you love.