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

In some cases the patient can hardly stand up straight, in a standing position. Acute back pain can last from a few days to a few weeks.

pain in the back

Causes of acute pain in the low back

Most people at least once in their life has experienced back pain. Although pain or discomfort may occur at any level, most often affected is the lumbar region. This is because the lower back is forced to carry the weight of the entire body and head.

Back pain is the second most common reason for seeking medical attention, second only to the common cold and the flu.

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

Acute back pain is often the result of a sudden injury to the muscles and ligaments of the back, herniated disc of the lumbar spine. Pain in such cases may be due to muscle spasm, sprain or torn muscles and ligaments.

Causes sharp pain in the back include:

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

Acute back pain can also cause the following systemic diseases:

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

Causes sharp pain that is not associated with problems in the spine or tissues back:

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


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

Here are some examples of symptoms characteristic for different diseases and conditions:

  • in the case of intervertebral hernia: lower back pain, often in the legs, feet and the pain stronger than back pain and aggravated by sitting or after sleeping. Pain may radiate to the buttocks, thighs and down the leg to the foot. There may be tingling, numbness in the foot and the toes, in rare cases, muscle weakness of the legs;
  • stretching the muscles of the lower back: diffuse pain in the low back, which does not give in the legs or buttocks; increases movement and is reduced to rest;
  • when the spinal stenosis: pain in the back and the foot and leg, the pain stronger than back pain, such as spinal stenosis is often accompanied by the development of intervertebral hernia; aggravated by standing and walking, is reduced at rest and when it is bent back. The pain can be unilateral, bilateral;
  • in diffuse connective tissue diseases: pain in multiple joints, fever, weight loss, nausea;
  • osteomyelitis: persistent pain, often the temperature is normal; blood count normal, increase in erythrocyte sedimentation rate (EFF) and/or (C-reactive protein level.


At the consultation, the doctor will hold a conversation with the patient, asking questions about the nature and severity of the pain and other symptoms, collecting data about health history and to undergo a medical examination. On the basis of the data in conversation and examination by your doctor can make a diagnosis, or preliminary diagnosis, which will need to be confirmed and/or clarified with the help of medical tests. Medical tests may be different, starting with blood and ending with studies of nerve conduction. The most popular inspections include:



Radiography was carried out to assess the bone status of the patient. A diagnosis can be made with x-rays, which include osteoporosis, compression fracture and bony growths (osteophytes);

Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)

The advantage of MRI over other studies, is that with MRI to obtain 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 diagnosis on the MRI findings:

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

Other diagnoses that can be put through an MRI:

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

Computed tomography (CT)

Computed tomography also allows to image not only bone but also soft tissue, however, is the quality of the images is the poor quality of the images obtained by the MRI, so CT is recommended if MRI, for some reason, that it 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?

  • limit physical activity for 1-2 days. This will help to relieve the symptoms and reduce the inflammation in the painful area;
  • using hot water bottles or bladder with ice to the sore area;
  • receive over-the-counter painkillers. Do not take these medicines in larger quantities, as is stated in the instructions to take drugs you don't need more than 3 days. If the pain persists, you should consult with your doctor.

During sleep it is better to assume the fetal position and put a pillow between your legs. If You're used to sleeping on your back, placed under the knees pillow or rolled up towel to relieve the strain on the back.

If the cause for lower back pain more serious, then the patient needs special treatment depending on the disease or condition that causes pain, then it is impossible to do without the assistance of the experts.

One of the most common causes of acute pain in the low back, which needs the special treatment of the intervertebral hernia. 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. Here are some of them:

  • Of the medicinal product. Drug treatment involves giving painkillers and anti-inflammatory drugs.
  • Traction of the spine. This extension does not lead to complications in comparison with the exhaust gas at the table with a vector load or cargo. Traction to the spine allows you to partially restore power and as a result, the status of the intervertebral discs and reduces the size of the intervertebral hernias;
  • Therapeutic massage. Types of therapeutic massages are different. In General, this method is aimed at achieving relaxation of the back muscles, relieve the muscle spasms that often accompany lower back pain;
  • Physiotherapy. Therapeutic exercises to strengthen the small muscles of the back;
  • Hirudotherapy
    Leech therapy reduces the inflammation around the hernia reduces pain. Is an alternative to pain medication.
  • Surgical treatment. Surgical treatment of intervertebral hernia is recommended only for patients who are not responding to treatment by conservative means, provided that this treatment is done regularly and systematically, as well as patients who have started treatment already with symptoms of severe neurological deficit: weakness in the legs, paresis, paralysis of the legs, numbness in the groin area, impaired control over the functions of urination and/or defecation. All of the above mentioned symptoms are signs for emergency surgery on the spine.