Acute low back pain, causes, symptoms, diagnosis, treatment

In some cases, the patient can be difficult to bear directly in a standing position. Acute back pain can last from a few days to a few weeks.

back pain

Causes of the acute low back pain

The majority of the people, at least once in their life has experienced back pain. Although the pain or discomfort can appear in any level, most often affecting the lumbar region. This is due to the fact that the lower part of the back is forced to support the weight of the entire body and the head.

Back pain is the second most frequent reason to seek medical attention, second only to colds and the flu.

Typically, the first acute low back pain occurs after lifting a heavy object, sudden movements, injury, or long sitting in one position.

Acute back pain is often the result of sudden trauma to the muscles and ligaments of the back, herniated disk of the lumbar region of the spine. The pain, in these cases, it can be caused by a muscle spasm, sprained or torn muscles and ligaments.

Causes of sharp pain in the back include:

  • vertebral compression fractures due to trauma or osteoporosis;
  • muscle spasm (excess muscle tension);
  • hernia;
  • sciatica;
  • stenosis (narrowing) of the spinal canal);
  • the curvature of the spine (e.g. scoliosis or kyphosis), including the disease Chairman Mau;
  • stretching/tearing of muscles or ligaments of the back;
  • spondylosis;
  • spondylolisthesis;
  • infection of the spine (discitis, abscess.

Acute back pain can also cause the following systemic diseases:

  • diffuse disease of connective tissue;
  • Bechterew's disease;
  • a malignant tumor in the spine;
  • the rheumatoid arthritis.

Causes of acute illness not related to problems in the spine or tissues of the back:

  • abdominal aortic aneurysm;
  • diseases of the gastrointestinal tract: pancreatitis, ulcer of stomach, cholecystitis;
  • the herpes zoster;
  • disease of pelvic organs: endometriosis, prostatitis, inflammatory bowel disease pelvic;
  • diseases of the space retroperitoneal: renal colic, pyelonephritis;
  • pregnancy.


The symptoms of acute low back pain, vary greatly depending on its cause. You may feel numbness, tingling type of pain may be different, as well as the severity of the pain from mild discomfort to pain that he can barely tolerate. In addition, back pain is often combined with pain in the leg, hip and foot. In some cases there may be weakness in the legs.

These are some of the examples of the characteristic symptoms of various diseases and conditions:

  • in case of intervertebral hernia: lower back pain, often in the thigh, and the leg pain stronger than back pain and aggravated by sitting or after sleeping. The pain may radiate to buttocks, thigh and down the leg to the foot. There may be tingling sensation, feeling of numbness in the feet and toes, in rare cases, muscle weakness of the legs;
  • stretching of the muscles of the lower back: spread the back pain that did not occur in the leg or the buttocks; increases with movement and is attenuated to the rest;
  • when stenosis spinal: back pain and the foot and leg pain stronger than back pain, such as stenosis spinal is often accompanied by the development of intervertebral disc hernia; aggravated by standing and walking, is attenuated at rest and when folded the back. The pain may be unilateral, bilateral;
  • in diffuse connective tissue diseases: pain in various joints, fever, weight loss, weakness;
  • osteomyelitis: persistent pain, often temperature is normal, blood count normal, increase of erythrocyte rate sedimentation (esr) and/or the C-reactive protein level.


On the consultation, the doctor will have to maintain a conversation with the patient, ask questions about the nature and severity of the pain and other symptoms, collect information about the patient's medical history and perform a medical exam. On the basis of the data in conversation and examination, the doctor can make a diagnosis, or preliminary diagnosis, which will need to be confirmed and/or clarified with the help of medical tests. The medical tests can be different, starting with blood and ending with studies of nerve conduction. The most popular exams include:

The X-rays


The x-ray is carried out to assess the bone status of the patient. Diagnoses that can be made by x-rays, include osteoporosis, compression fracture and bony growths (osteophytes);

Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)

The advantage of MRI over other studies is that for an MRI to get a high quality detailed images of not only bone, but also soft tissues: muscles, ligaments, blood vessels, nerves, intervertebral discs, spinal cord, etc.

The most common diagnoses on the MRI results:

  • a herniated disk;
  • narrowing (stenosis) of the spinal canal;
  • spondylitis.

Other diagnoses that can be put through an MRI:

  • ankylosing spondylitis (type of arthritis);
  • infection of the bone;
  • cauda equina syndrome;
  • the compression of the fractures;
  • discitis (inflammation of the intervertebral disc);
  • abscess of the spinal cord;
  • damage to the spinal cord;
  • a tumor in the spine.

Computed tomography (CT)

Computed tomography also allows to image not only bone but also soft tissues, however, the image quality is inferior to the quality of the images obtained by MRI, so CT is recommended if MRI for some reason that is impossible or difficult, for example, in the presence of a pacemaker or structures in the body.


What you can do at home for acute back pain?

  • restriction of physical activity for 1-2 days. This will help to relieve the symptoms and reduce the inflammation in the area painful;
  • application of hot-water bottles or bladder with ice to the area painful;
  • receive over-the-counter painkillers. Do not take these medicines in larger quantities than indicated in the instructions to make drugs that you do not need more than 3 days. If the pain continues, you should consult a doctor.

During sleep it is best to take the position of the embryo and put a pillow between the legs. If You're accustomed to sleeping on your back, placed under the knees pillow or rolled up towel to relieve the tension on the back.

If the cause of lower back pain more serious, then the patient requires a specific treatment, depending the disease or condition that is causing the pain, then it is impossible to do without the help of professionals.

One of the most common causes of acute lower back pain, you need a special treat is intervertebral hernia. The treatment of intervertebral hernia is usually conservative, only occasionally doctors have to use surgical methods. There are a large number of conservative methods of treatment of intervertebral hernia. These are some of them:

  • The medication. Drug treatment involves the administration of analgesics and anti-inflammatory.
  • Traction of the spine. This extension does not lead to complications in comparison with the exhaust in the tables with a vector load or of the load. Traction of the spine allows to partially restore the power and as a result, the state of the intervertebral discs and reduces the size of the intervertebral disc hernia;
  • Therapeutic massage. Types of therapeutic massages are different. In General, this method is geared to achieve the relaxation of the back muscles, relieve the muscle spasms that often accompany lower back pain;
  • Physiotherapy. Therapeutic exercises aimed at the strengthening of the small muscles of the back;
  • Hirudotherapy
    Leech therapy reduces the inflammation around the hernia reduces the pain. It is an alternative to pain medication.
  • Surgical treatment. Surgical treatment of intervertebral hernia is recommended only in patients who do not respond to conservative treatment, provided this treatment was carried out regularly and systematically, as well as the patients who started treatment already with the symptoms of the serious deficit neurological: weakness in the legs, paresis, paralysis of the legs, numbness in the groin area, disorders of control over the functions of urination and/or defecation. All this symptoms are indications for urgent surgery to the spine.