September 18, 2017

Lower back pain: causes, symptoms and relief

Neck, Back and Spine

This post is part of The Ultimate Guide to Back Pain Relief

Low back pain is a common condition that most people experience at some point in their lives. There are many reasons why someone may have lower back pain, but the treatment depends on the underlying cause.


The spine is made up of 24 bones, called vertebrae, which are stacked on top of one another. These bones connect to protect the spinal cord. The seven small vertebrae that begin at the base of the skull and form the neck comprise the cervical spine.

Your spinal cord and nerves travel through the spinal canal carrying messages between your brain and muscles. The intervertebral discs between your vertebrae are flexible, flat and round discs and are about a half-inch thick. They act as shock absorbers when you walk or run and allow motion between the vertebrae.


Because low back pain is so common, it also means there are many causes, including:

Back pain symptoms

Common causes of low back pain are often troubling but do not require urgent medical care. These symptoms of pain may vary from mild to extreme.

  • Pain can occur slowly or suddenly
  • Pain that is dull or achy
  • Pain may be constant or come and go
  • Pain may be worse when bending and lifting
  • Pain that worsens when sitting, standing or walking
  • Pain that improves when lying down or reclining

Some symptoms may indicate a more serious problem which requires urgent attention from a physician.

  • Pain associated with a fever of 101 degrees or higher
  • Pain after an accident such as a fall
  • Severe pain in patients with a history of cancer
  • Pain that radiates into the leg with a sudden loss of function in the leg or loss of the ability to control bowel or bladder function.

Physician examination

To treat your pain your physician will ask you for your complete medical history and have you describe your symptoms. A physical examination will also be performed. The physician may look at your back and push different areas to see if it hurts. An imaging test such as an X-rayCT scanMRI , bone scan or bone density test may be necessary to confirm a diagnosis.

Make an appointment with an OrthoIndy spine surgeon

Lower back pain relief

In general, treatment will start with nonsurgical options such as:

  • Physical therapy
  • Non steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs such as ibuprofen, aspirin or muscle relaxants
  • Narcotic pain medication may help
  • Steroids either taken orally or injected into the spine (make an appointment with an OrthoIndy Non-operative Pain Management Physician)
  • Braces
  • Chiropractic therapy
  • At home exercises or stretching techniques
  • Weight control
  • Smoking cessation
  • Regular aerobic activity

Injections and surgical treatment

  • If a patient does not feel relief after a period of time they may benefit from injections or possibly surgery. Determining the best course of action is based on establishing the correct diagnosis for the cause of pain and then creating the plan most appropriate for the patient and their diagnosis.


Exercise, proper lifting, healthy weight maintenance, avoiding smoking and proper posture may help to provide lower back pain relief.

Learn more about treatment options for neck and back pain at OrthoIndy.

The Ultimate Guide to Back Pain Relief cover

The Ultimate Guide to Back Pain Relief

Find out what's causing your back pain and how you can treat it with OrthoIndy's ultimate guide to healing back pain.

Read the guide

Megan Golden

By Megan Golden

Megan is the current Marketing Team Lead at OrthoIndy. Megan graduated from Ball State University in 2012 with a bachelor’s degree in public relations and advertising and communications studies minor and has been with OrthoIndy since June 2012.

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