lower back pain

When does a lower back pain become a cause for concern?

Lower back pain is experienced by around 80% of all adults at some point in their lives, and it’s not always easy to pinpoint the cause. Bad posture, muscle strain, tension or spasm, and even, for women, watching too much TV are common causes, along with more serious conditions such as a slipped disc or osteoporosis. Mostly, the condition will repair itself, especially if helped with simple remedial exercises and pain killers, but some lower back pain becomes a cause for greater concern.

Short-term pain

Most lower back pain will last between a few days and a few weeks. The pain may be acute as a result of an accident such as lifting something heavy, or it may develop gradually as a dull, constant pain. It could be a mechanical problem which means it may be limited to the muscle or it could also affect the spine, discs and nerves. Call your local osteopath for a diagnosis and treatment.

Chronic back pain

When back pain lasts for more than 12 weeks, it becomes a chronic problem. Chronic back pain is usually caused by an injury and should be treated by a professional. Your GP will probably refer you to an osteopath.

Serious conditions

Occasionally, the lower back pain will be a symptom of an underlying condition which, in a few cases – though certainly by no means all – turns out to be more serious. If you are experiencing lower back pain at the same time as the following symptoms, the best course of action is to see your GP:

  • Fever – back pain combined with fever could be a sign of an infection.
  • Trauma – if you experience trauma such as a car accident or a fall, lower back pain can be indicative of a fracture, so your doctor will probably want you to have an X-ray of the area in order to check. If you’re over 50, even a relatively minor trauma can result in a fracture, so it’s best to be cautious and seek medical attention.
  • Numbness or tingling – if you’re experiencing constant numbness or pins and needles at the same time as lower back pain, this may be indicative of a herniated disc or even spinal stenosis which could result in nerve damage.
  • Foot drop – if you find you’re dragging your toes when you walk, you may have a nerve problem.
  • Loss of bladder or bowel function – this could be caused by a herniated disk, fracture, trauma, tumour or spinal stenosis causing nerve damage. THIS IS A MEDICAL EMERGENCY AND YOU SHOULD GET TO A&E IMMEDIATELY OR CALL 999.
  • Previous conditions – if you have a medical history of cancers, osteoporosis, and suppressed immune system or have used significant amounts of steroids (which can cause osteoporosis) get it checked out.
  • Pain at night – if you’re waking up in the middle of the night because of your back pain, it may be caused by a serious underlying problem.
  • Unexplained weight loss – this may be caused by an infection or, occasionally a tumour.

If you are experiencing lower back pain for the first time, don’t panic. An osteopath is able to provide a full assessment, diagnosis and treatments such as gentle stretching, massage, joint articulation and soft-tissue release.  Book an appointment with Hitchin Osteopathy for professional treatment and advice.