When to Worry: Lower Back Pain
Lower back pain affects up to 70 percent of the population, athletes or otherwise. With how much we sit at work these days, the pain often stems from awkward positioning, bad posture and/or overuse. Normally lower back pain is nothing to worry about, but there are times when it can be a cause for concern.
Causes of Lower Back Pain
There can be numerous causes to lower back pain depending on the level of athletic activity. It’s not entirely uncommon for athletes to get stress fractures in their spine, while pinched nerves, sprains, muscle pulls, ligament damage, and herniated and bulging discs can also be very painful. Older athletes may also experience lower back pain causes by arthritis.
When to Worry
If your lower back pain is from simple overuse, then it’s not a cause for concern. Be mindful of your posture and try to limit the amount of pressure on the lower back and spine.
If your pain is instant, intense or sudden, that could be a sign something a bit more serious. Pain in the sciatic nerve (the nerve that runs from your lower back and down through your buttocks) may also be indicative of a tear or sprain.
If your lower back pain is also associated with a tingling or numbness, then that could be a sign of disc herniation, which could require surgery.
When to Really Worry
It’s uncommon, but sometimes lower-back pain can be an indication of a medical emergency. If your pain is accompanied by these symptoms, see a health care provider ASAP.
- Leg Weakness
- Increased pain and fever
- Loss of Bladder Control
- Unexplained Weight Loss
- Acute stomach pain
Diagnosing Lower Back Pain
If your back pain is intense or persistent, then see your health care professional as soon as possible. Doctors can usually diagnose lower back pain on a thorough history and physical exam.
More complex cases will require X-rays, which will uncover any abnormalities including arthritis or a fracture.
If a doctor suspects a bulging or herniated disc, then they will do an MRI to make a proper diagnosis. For stress fractures, a bone scan may be necessary.