Low Back Pain
Low Back Pain
Symptoms of low back pain depend on the cause.
Back sprain or strain
- Muscle spasms, cramping, and
- Pain in the back and sometimes in the buttock. It may come on quickly or gradually. It most often occurs in
episodes. Certain movements make it worse, and doing light activities such as walking makes it feel better. The worst pain usually lasts 48 to 72 hours and may be
followed by days or weeks of less severe pain.
Symptoms typically include:
- Leg pain. If pain extends below the knee, it is
more likely to be due to pressure on a nerve than to a muscle problem. Most
commonly, it's a pain that starts in the buttock and travels down the back of the leg
as far as the ankle or foot. This pain pattern is known as
sciatica (say "sy-AT-ih-kuh").
For more information, see the topic Sciatica.
- Nerve-related problems, such as tingling,
numbness, or weakness in one leg or in the foot, lower leg, or both legs.
Tingling may begin in the buttock and extend to the ankle or foot. Weakness or
numbness in both legs, or loss of bladder and/or bowel control, are symptoms of
cauda equina syndrome, which requires immediate
Arthritis of the spine
Osteoarthritis of the spine usually causes pain that:
- Is worse in the back and hip region.
- Starts gradually, gets worse over time,
and lasts longer than 3 to 6 months.
- Is generally worse in the morning or
after prolonged periods of inactivity. Arthritis pain gets better when you move
Symptoms of diseases that affect the spine depend on the disease. They may include:
- Pain that is worse in the affected part of the
spine (for instance, if there is a compression fracture, tumor, or
- Pain that starts gradually, is constant, and may be
sharp or a dull ache. Bed rest doesn't help and may make it worse
(for example, tumors on the spine often cause night pain). The pain lasts longer than 2 to 3
- Sensitivity of the spine to touch and
- Pain that wakes you up from sleep.
William H. Blahd, Jr., MD, FACEP - Emergency Medicine
Robert B. Keller, MD - Orthopedics
December 14, 2011
©1995-2012, Healthwise, Incorporated, P.O. Box 1989, Boise, ID 83701.
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
For more information,
How this information was developed.