The cause of back pain can usually be diagnosed with a detailed description of one’s symptoms. The description of back pain symptoms, along with one's medical history (and possibly diagnostic testing), will usually lead to a diagnosis of a general cause (such as back strain), or a specific condition (such as a herniated disc).
Back Pain Symptoms from a Sprain or Strain
Back sprain or strain symptoms generally include:
- Pain is usually localized in the low back (doesn’t radiate down the leg)
- Pain often starts after lifting something heavy, lifting while twisting, or a sudden movement or fall
- Pain may include muscle spasms, tenderness upon touch
- Pain is less when resting and worse during certain activities.
Lower back pain from a muscle strain usually will get better within one to three days.
Chronic Back Pain Symptoms
Symptoms that are part of a diagnosable chronic condition can include:
- Leg pain (sciatica) and possible numbness. Pain can radiate down the leg to the buttock and/or the foot, and can be worse with sitting or prolonged standing. This type of pain can be due to a lumbar herniated disc.
- Pain with certain movement and positions (such as bending forward, running). The pain tends to fluctuate, with low level or no pain at times, and then flare up at other times. This chronic back pain can be caused by degenerative disc disease.
- Lower back pain, often accompanied by leg pain, which worsens when standing or walking for long periods. This pain may be caused by a small stress fracture in the back of the spine called isthmic spondylolisthesis.
- Lower back pain that is worse in the morning and in the evening, and stiffness (usually in older adults). This back pain may be caused by facet joint osteoarthritis (degenerative arthritis).
- Pain that is felt down the legs when walking and standing upright and that feels worse with more walking and gets better after sitting down (usually in older adults). This pain may be caused by lumbar spinal stenosis and/or degenerative spondylolisthesis.
There are many more conditions can cause lower back pain, leg pain and other symptoms; the intention of this article is to highlight the most common ones.
There are a few symptoms that are possible indications of serious medical conditions, and patients with these symptoms should contact a doctor immediately:
- Difficulty passing urine or having a bowel movement
- Progressive weakness in the legs
- Severe, continuous abdominal and lower back pain.