- Spinal Discs
- Other Internal Pelvic Structures
Any of these can cause pain that may be interpreted as low back pain. Fortunately, 95% of the time, the cause will heal quickly and the pain will go away no matter what treatment is performed.
Back Muscle Strains
The most common cause of back pain most people suffer is a muscle strain. Pain from a strain is localized in the muscles along the low back and in the buttock and they feel like tight bands. Usually this is from over stressing the muscles by lifting too much, twisting, and bending.
With mild to moderate strains, one is usually just sore and stiff when moving. In more severe strains, one may feel like they can hardly move due to the pain. If the pain is more severe, start with simple treatments such as:
- Heat and ice
- Stretching to loosen up the back muscles.
- Over the counter medications like acetaminophen, aspirin, and ibuprofen
Joint Irritation in the Low Back
The next most common cause of pain is irritation of the joints in the low back or pelvis region. The facet joints in the back occur on both sides of the spine at every level. They are the same size and structure as the joints in the fingers but carry the weight of the whole body. The sacroiliac joints connect the bottom of the spine to the pelvis. Both of these joints cause deep pain in the low back region, but it does not usually radiate beyond the area, and may be worse with certain movements. Again, simple treatment with ice and heat, and over the counter medications will help.
When to See a Pain Doctor
The more complex the pain, the longer lasting the pain, the more benefit there is in seeing a doctor. If the pain does not go away within a week, start by seeing a primary care doctor. Sometimes resolving the problem can be accomplished through physical therapy and stronger medications. Rest is not recommended more than a day or two. The more active you are, the more likely you can solve the problem.
If the back pain continues for more than 4-6 weeks, then it is time to find a Physical Medicine doctor who specializes in Pain Medicine. These are highly trained doctors who really understand the complex elements of the low back that can cause pain. They can determine which structures are causing the pain and guide a person through successful long-term treatment. A good pain doctor will diagnosis what is wrong, and work with you to find the best solution for your specific needs.
Thomas Cohn, MD
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