How do I know if my lower back pain is serious?

 Low back pain is pain that arises in the lumbar region, which is the final part of the back, and which may or may not be accompanied by pain in the buttocks or legs.

 In most cases, low back pain is due to compression of the sciatic nerve, poor posture, herniated disc or osteoarthritis in the spine, for example.

 Low back pain usually gets better after a few days of rest.  However, if it is persistent or if it is accompanied by other symptoms, it is important to consult an orthopedist or physical therapist to identify the cause and initiate the most appropriate treatment, which may include the use of anti-inflammatory drugs, analgesics and, in some cases, sessions of physiotherapy.

 low back pain symptoms

 According to the duration of symptoms, low back pain can be classified as acute, when it started less than 6 weeks ago, and chronic, when it has been present for more than 12 weeks.  Regardless of the duration, the main symptoms related to low back pain are:

 Pain at the end of the spine;

 Contracture and increased muscle tension in the region;

 Inability to sit or stand for a long time, necessitating finding new positions to sit, sleep, or walk.

 In addition, depending on the cause of low back pain, more specific symptoms may arise, such as pain that radiates to the buttocks and legs, difficulty walking and pain when breathing, for example.  Thus, it is important that the person with low back pain looks for the orthopedist when the symptoms take time to improve, because in this way an evaluation can be carried out and the most appropriate treatment can be indicated.

 Signs that low back pain is serious

 In addition to the common symptoms of low back pain, some people may develop other signs or symptoms that indicate that the condition is more serious and needs more attention.  Some of the serious signs and symptoms that can arise are fever, weight loss with no apparent cause and changes in sensitivity, such as a feeling of shock or numbness.

 In addition, when low back pain appears in people younger than 20 or older than 55 or after a fall or accident, it is also possible that the situation is more serious, and an orthopedist evaluation is important.

 How the diagnosis is made

 In order to diagnose low back pain, the orthopedist, rheumatologist or physical therapist may, in addition to observing the signs of the disease, request an image exam such as x-ray and magnetic resonance imaging, to verify the existence of other diseases involved such as herniated disc, or check if the sciatic nerve is compressed, which helps to define the most appropriate treatment for each case.

 Sometimes the exams are normal despite the difficulty to move and perform daily activities, requiring treatment.  Usually this type of back pain is more frequent in people who practice physical activities, such as lifting weights, repetitive movements or staying a long time sitting or standing, always in the same position.

Causes of lower back pain

 Low back pain can develop as a result of poor posture, anatomical deformity or local trauma, but it is not always possible to discover its cause, and it can occur at all ages, affecting men and women equally.  Some situations that favor pain at the end of the spine are:
  •  Repetitive efforts;
  •  Minor trauma, such as a fall;
  •   Sedentary lifestyle;
  •  Inappropriate posture;
  •  Osteoarthritis of the spine;
  •  Osteoporosis in the spine;
  •  myofascial syndrome;
  •  Spondylolisthesis;
  •  Ankylosing spondylitis;
  •  Rheumatoid arthritis.
 In addition, excess weight can also favor the development of low back pain, since in this case there is a change in the point of gravity, greater flaccidity and distension of the abdomen, favoring pain.

 Lower back pain treatment

 Treatment for low back pain should be guided by an orthopedist or rheumatologist according to the cause of the pain.  Thus, the use of anti-inflammatory drugs, corticosteroids, painkillers and muscle relaxants, for example, may be indicated in some cases. 

 In cases of chronic low back pain, physiotherapy may also be recommended, which can be performed with superficial and/or deep heating methods, stretching and strengthening exercises for the back.