How To Identify One Common Lower Back Pain Cause

Back strains and sprains are the most common causes of acute back pain.

Woman with her lower back hurting her.

Upset mature middle aged woman feels back pain massaging aching muscles, sad senior older lady suffers from low-back lumbar pain sitting in incorrect sedentary posture, backache radiculitis concept

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Back pain has a wide range of presentations and causes. Pain differs widely from person to person for reasons that are puzzling. This makes back pain one of the most challenging conditions for both the patient and healthcare provider.

Some individuals feel a constant ache across their lower back when they bend over, while others have a shooting pain down one leg. Some people find that their pain responds better to over-the-counter pain relievers, while others swear by heating pads.

If you experience back pain, you know how inconvenient it is to your home and work life, and you’ve felt the twinges it elicits during everyday tasks. Pain on a daily or chronic basis pervades or affects all areas of our lives, including our ability to work, have fun, and interact with the people around us. While it’s almost inevitable for adults to experience back pain at some point in life, it can become a regular occurrence for some. If back pain is getting in the way of your daily activities for at least a week, and if it’s starting to limit your work, home, and personal life, you should seek professional help. Daily or chronic pain needs evaluation by your doctor and often an interdisciplinary team of health care professionals.

Identifying possible causes of your back pain is the first step to recovery. So what are the biggest instigators of back pain? One common cause are back strains and sprains.

Back pain has a wide range of presentations and causes. Pain differs widely from person to person for reasons that are puzzling. This makes back pain one of the most challenging conditions for both the patient and healthcare provider.

Some individuals feel a constant ache across their lower back when they bend over, while others have a shooting pain down one leg. Some people find that their pain responds better to over-the-counter pain relievers, while others swear by heating pads.

If you experience back pain, you know how inconvenient it is to your home and work life, and you’ve felt the twinges it elicits during everyday tasks. Pain on a daily or chronic basis pervades or affects all areas of our lives, including our ability to work, have fun, and interact with the people around us. While it’s almost inevitable for adults to experience back pain at some point in life, it can become a regular occurrence for some. If back pain is getting in the way of your daily activities for at least a week, and if it’s starting to limit your work, home, and personal life, you should seek professional help. Daily or chronic pain needs evaluation by your doctor and often an interdisciplinary team of health care professionals.

Identifying possible causes of your back pain is the first step to recovery. So what are the biggest instigators of back pain? One common cause are back strains and sprains.

Strains, Sprains, and Other Soft-Tissue Injuries

Back strains and sprains are the most common causes of acute back pain. Strains are injuries in muscles or tendons (which connect muscle to bone). Sprains are injuries in ligaments (tissue that connects two or more bones at a joint). Other common soft tissue injuries include contusions (bruises) following a blow from behind, and tendonitis (inflammation of tendons) from repetitive motions.

Causes of Soft Tissue Injury

According to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, soft tissue problems can be categorized into either an acute injury or an overuse injury.

  • Acute injuries have a recent inciting event. Examples are strains, sprains, and/or contusions from a fall, twist, or blow to the back.
  • Overuse injuries develop gradually over time. An example is flexing or extending the back in prolonged positions or repetitive motions.

Soft tissue can be injured during sports, exercise, heavy exertion, and even everyday activities, particularly in the older adult population. Pulled or strained muscles can occur when they’re overworked, overstretched, or stretched too quickly and can result in inflammation, a tear, or a painful muscle spasm.

Symptoms of Soft Tissue Injury

Soft tissue injuries can have the following symptoms:

  • Back pain with movement
  • Dull ache
  • Muscle spasm
  • Tightness or stiffness Swelling and/or slight warmth
  • Bruising
  • Weakness or being unable to move a muscle

Usually a person with a strain, sprain, or soft tissue injury will have pain that limits full range of motion, “guarding” against certain positions, and complain of muscle spasms. Soft tissue pain usually doesn’t present with any neurological symptoms, such as numbness, tingling, or true weakness.

Assessment of Soft Tissue Injury

Your doctor, physician’s assistant, or nurse will often be able to diagnose a back soft tissue injury based on history and physical examination, and without any laboratory or imaging tests. A soft tissue injury can usually be treated conservatively with superficial cold and heat, exercise therapy, and over-the-counter pain relievers. Keep in mind that muscles, ligaments, and tendons can be dense or fibrous and can take days to weeks to fully heal. Physical activity is encouraged so that the muscles do not get stiff or weak.

For more information on back pain, purchase Managing Low Back Pain from www.UniversityHealthNews.com.

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Leonaura Rhodes, MD

Dr. Leonaura Rhodes is a physician turned author, coach, and freelance medical writer and editor. She has worked for Belvoir Media since 2017 and has authored hundreds of articles on … Read More

View all posts by Leonaura Rhodes, MD

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