Low Back Pain Fact Sheet
If you have had lower back pain, you are not alone. Back pain is one of most common reasons people see a doctor or miss days at work. Even school-age children can have back pain.
Back pain can range in intensity from a dull, constant ache to a sudden, sharp or shooting pain. It can begin suddenly as a result of an accident or by lifting something heavy, or it can develop over time as we age. Getting too little exercise followed by a strenuous workout also can cause back pain.
There are two types of back pain:
- Acute, or short-term back pain lasts a few days to a few weeks. Most low back pain is acute. It tends to resolve on its own within a few days with self-care and there is no residual loss of function. In some cases a few months are required for the symptoms to disappear.
- Chronic back pain is defined as pain that continues for 12 weeks or longer, even after an initial injury or underlying cause of acute low back pain has been treated. About 20 percent of people affected by acute low back pain develop chronic low back pain with persistent symptoms at one year. Even if pain persists, it does not always mean there is a medically serious underlying cause or one that can be easily identified and treated. In some cases, treatment successfully relieves chronic low back pain, but in other cases pain continues despite medical and surgical treatment.
Leg Pain From Hip Disorders
When the hip is affected, you may have groin pain on the affected side, reduced range of motion of the hip, thigh pain, knee pain, or buttocks pain. The pain usually does not go down below the knee, and there is no associated numbness or tingling. You may feel more pain when walking or standing, and the pain improves with rest. You may sense a limited range of motion when trying to get out of the car, chair or bed. Occasionally, pain in the hip could be secondary to inflammation of a hip bursa. This can happen if you have tight hip abductor muscles, difference in leg length or hip arthritis. Hip pain can also be caused by something more serious but less common, like fractures, tumors, infection or avascular necrosis.
Can Lower Back Pain Radiate To The Groin
A common complaint from individuals who have chronic pain is that it moves from one area of the body to another. This said, it becomes difficult in these situations to determine where the pain originated and what may be its cause.
While there are many instances in which this kind of pain is the cause of a low-risk injury or condition, there are some instances in which the pain might be the side effect of something far more serious.
Keep reading to understand more about radiating pain, what it may mean for you, and what are some possible treatment options.
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When Are Diagnostic Tests For Lower Back Pain Necessary
Many patients do not need X-rays in the first few weeks of pain because their pain will end up resolving. Many more do not need CT scans or MRI imaging, which are overly sensitive and often reveal abnormalities not related to the patients pain. These forms of imaging can be extremely useful, however, if a person has chronic or severe pain, and/or neurological symptoms. Blood tests may be ordered if an infection or tumor is suspected.
Possible Causes For Lower Back And Leg Pain
According to a study by Georgetown University, around 8% of all American adults experience persistent back pain that affects their quality of life. Most of them have limited movements to avoid aggravating the back in the lower back. In some cases, the intense lower back pain travels down to the buttocks, thighs, and legs.
Since back pain is also one of the main reasons why American workers miss work days, its important to get the right treatment as soon as possible. Finding out the right treatment starts with determining the root cause of the lower back pain that radiates down to the legs. Here are some of the most common reasons for pain in the lumbar spine:
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The Indirect Results Of Nerve Compression
Another reason you may be feeling pain in one of your hips is that when you have a pinched nerve in your back that affects one side of your lower body, you tend to favor that side. The pain may alter the way you move, which can place added stress on your already hard-working hips.
So, if your hip pain is more of a dull ache and youre also experiencing some of the more classic signs of sciatica, the two are likely related.
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Leg Pain From Back Disorders
Leg pain coming from the low back, or the lumbar spine, is commonly referred to as sciatica. Sciatica could involve pain in the buttocks, down the thigh, into the leg or in the foot. It is often associated with numbness or tingling, and sometimes weakness. Sciatica has multiple possible causes, such as:
- Herniated or ruptured disc
- Lumbar spinal stenosis
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Osteoarthritis Of The Hip
Age-related degeneration of the hip joint can cause pain in the lower back and stiffness in the hip.
Hip osteoarthritis causes stiffness and a significant decrease in the hips range of motion. This change can cause the hip to incline forward, disrupting the curvature of the lower spine. The inward curvature of the lower spine may become more pronounced, sometimes causing the lower spinal discs to bulge or herniate.12,13
This condition may over time cause degeneration of the spinal joints too, resulting in a more advanced problem called hip-spine syndrome.
Learn more about Hip Osteoarthritis on Arthritis-health.com
This list is not exhaustive of all possible causes of lower back and hip pain. If you experience pain and/or stiffness in your lower back and hip that does not resolve with self-care and affects your daily activities, talk to your doctor. A doctor can accurately diagnose the cause of your lower back problem and formulate a treatment plan for the underlying condition.
What Could Cause Lower Back And Hip Pain On One Side
One-sided back or hip pain is a common issue. Sometimes one-sided pain can indicate a non-skeletal, non-spinal, or non-muscular issue.
The most common causes of lower back pain on one side are tissue injuries from trauma, muscle strain, arthritis, kidney stones, or a kidney infection. If your one-sided pain is stemming from a non-muscular or non-skeletal issue like kidney stones or a kidney infection you will likely have painful urination, nausea, vomiting, and a fever.
However, one-sided hip pain often indicates tendinitis, bursitis, or tight muscles.
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What Does Sciatica Pain Feel Like
People describe sciatica pain in different ways, depending on its cause. Some people describe the pain as sharp, shooting, or jolts of pain. Others describe this pain as burning, “electric or stabbing.
The pain may be constant or may come and go. Also, the pain is usually more severe in your leg compared to your lower back. The pain may feel worse if you sit or stand for long periods of time, when you stand up and when your twist your upper body. A forced and sudden body movement, like a cough or sneeze, can also make the pain worse.
Bulging Discs And Nerve Root Irritation
A bulging disc is a common, age-related issue that may lead to nerve irritation. This type of disc injury may occur with or without nerve root irritation at any level along the spine.
Keep in mind that a mild form of broad-based disc bulging is a normal part of the aging process. Thankfully, many adults undergo this degenerative change without experiencing any significant pain.
However, moderate to severe bulging that is localized, particularly in the lumbar region, may lead to inflammation that puts excess pressure on the nerve roots. When this happens, lower back pain and referred pain often cause difficulty during weight bearing movements. Altered sensations in other parts of the body may develop, such as pelvic pain and tingling or numbness in the limbs.
Another health issue linked to nerve root irritation is spinal stenosis. This condition is characterized by the narrowing of the spinal elements that enclose nerve roots or nerve irritation that occurs as pressure is placed on the spinal cord due to the narrowing of the spinal canal .
Although this issue generally develops in the lumbar region , the pain may gradually radiate towards the front of the pelvis. You may notice lower back and pelvic pain gets worse while walking or standing. This is because being in an upright position decreases spinal space and increases pressure on the spinal cord and nerve roots.
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Pain And Stiffness In The Lower Back And Hip
A feeling of stiffness can accompany pain in the lower back and hip. This symptom is typically a protective mechanism of the body to prevent further injury in the area. Stiffness that occurs with pain can be debilitating and reduce function in the back, hip, and leg considerably. Here are a few common conditions that may cause these symptoms to occur together.
Mechanical Lower Back Pain
Because it represents 97% of cases, mechanical low back pain deserves to be discussed first. To determine the factors that bring out the pain, the doctor will consider the following causes of mechanical low back pain:
- Spondylolisthesis .
- Osteoarthritis .
- Spinal stenosis .
Low back pain that gets worse with sitting may indicate a herniated lumbar disc . This is because certain positions of the body can change the amount of pressure that an out-of-place disc can press on a nerve. This is one reason we suggest to people with low back pain to periodically get up and stretch or walk around rather than continually stay sitting. Acute onset, that is, pain that comes on suddenly, may suggest a herniated disc or a muscle strain, as opposed to a more gradual onset of pain, which fits more with osteoarthritis, spinal stenosis, or spondylolisthesis.
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Sharp Pain In The Lower Back And Hip On One Side
A shooting and sharp pain felt on one side on your lower back and hip may be caused by muscle spasm, joint dysfunction, and/or nerve compression in the region. Common conditions that cause this type of pain are discussed below.
Spasm of the piriformis muscle located deep in the buttock may cause 5:
- Moderate to severe lower back, hip, and buttock pain
- Referred pain that may extend into the back of the thigh
- Inability to sit for a long time
The pain is typically felt on one side and may be worsened by hip movements, such as when getting out of bed.5
Piriformis syndrome is commonly caused by overactivity of the hip rotator muscles or sitting on hard surfaces for prolonged periods of time. An injury to the buttock may also cause this pain.6
Read more: What Is Piriformis Syndrome?
Reasons You May Be Experiencing Back And Hip Pain
This content was medically reviewed by Baher S. Yanni, MD, on February 8th, 2021.
Pain can be distressing, especially if youre not sure what brought it on. If you are experiencing back and hip pain, these aggravating symptoms are usually the result of overuse or injury. The frustrating aspect of combined hip and back pain is that many different causes could be to blame.
Back pain can easily be mistaken for hip discomfort. The joint of your hip is located near your spine, so certain health conditions and injuries affect the nerves in both of these areas. That means the culprit of your hip and back pain could overlap.
Here are six reasons you may be experiencing pain in both your lower back and your hip.
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Reasons For Radiating Lower Back Or Hip Pain On One Side
A comprehensive guide on pain that radiates in the lower back and hip that can help you diagnose the cause of your pain and knowâright nowâif you need to get help!
Severe pain always gets your attention and keeps it there, making you wonder if there is something worrisome that is wrong.
Back pain and outer hip pain area can be especially troublesome, causing you pain when you move, walk, and even when you sleep. Sciatic nerve pain is especially troubling, causing pain in the butt â literally â and shooting pain in the leg that begins in the mid buttock and runs down the back of the leg down to the ankle.
We’ve put together a handy guide that will help you pinpoint the exact cause of your pain and know how seriousâor mild, your condition is and to know if you need to get help immediately or see a doctor at your convenience.
If you are concerned that the cause of your radiating back/hip/leg pain might be something serious, check the more serious possible causes of your pain below to see what doctors say about when to worry about radiating hip and back pain.
You can also consult our handy back pain quiz, which will help you use your symptoms to diagnose possible causes for your pain.
Early And Correct Diagnosis Is Key
When seeing a physician for hip or lower back pain, imaging such as x-rays and MRIs are usually conducted at the sight of the symptoms. Yet, these studies can sometimes show abnormalities that are not actually the root cause of the pain. Let me share a quick example.
A fifty-year-old gentleman had severe pain in the outside of his hip. He saw a physician and had an x-ray of the hip area performed. It was determined that he had mild arthritis in the hip, but the arthritis should not have caused the extensive symptoms he was enduring.
So, he started physical therapy for a period of time and saw no improvement. He then received a cortisone shot in the hip, and that didnt work either. His treatment plan moved on to a stem cell injection with platelet rich plasma in the hip, which also offered no improvement to his symptoms.
This mans symptoms started in April and proceeded to get worse and worse to the point that he was in a wheelchair when he came to the OrthoVirginia office in August. I looked over his symptoms and decided to have a MRI performed on his lower back, even though he had absolutely zero pain coming from his lumbar spine.
It turned out that the L3 and L4 nerves in his back were being compressed, and the symptoms were appearing in his hip. A minimally invasive surgery was performed, and his pain was gone immediately.
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Lower Back Pain Causes: 8 Reasons For Sudden & Chronic Pain
Sometimes, you know exactly why your back is hurting. Maybe you lifted something awkwardly and felt the pain right away. Or maybe your doctor has been warning you for years that your bad posture would lead to lower back pain.
But other times, the source of back pain can feel like a mystery.
“Your lumbar spine, located in your lower back, plays a crucial role in supporting the weight of your upper body. It’s also responsible for everyday movements, such as bending, twisting and coordinating the muscles in your hips, pelvis legs and feet,” says Dr. Kenneth Palmer, orthopedic surgeon specializing in spine surgery at Houston Methodist. “Due to heavy use, the bones, muscles, ligaments, disks and nerves found in your lumbar spine are quite susceptible to both injury and wear and tear over time causing pain in the lower back.”
Lower back pain symptoms include:
- Dull ache in your hips and/or pelvis
- Muscle spasms or tightness
- Sharp, tingling pain that starts in your lower back and travels down one leg
- Pain that worsens with sitting and quickly improves while walking
- Pain that is noticeably worse in the morning
“Typically, a person experiences some combination of these symptoms, which can develop suddenly or over time. In some cases, lower back pain can feel like it comes and goes flaring up now and then, but generally getting progressively worse over time,” explains Dr. Palmer.
Speaking of the various causes of lower back pain…
How Is A Diagnosis Made
A medical exam will help determine whether the SI joint is the source of your pain. Evaluation includes a medical history and physical exam. Your physician will consider all the information you provided, including any history of injury, location of your pain, and problems standing or sleeping.
There are specific tests to determine whether the SI joint is the source of pain. You may be asked to stand or move in different positions and point to where you feel pain. Your doctor may manipulate your joints or feel for tenderness over your SI joint.
A diagnostic SI joint injection may be performed to confirm the cause of pain. The SI joint is injected with a local anesthetic and corticosteroid medication. The injection is given using X-ray fluoroscopy to ensure accurate needle placement in the SI joint. Your pain level is evaluated before and 20-30 minutes after injection, and monitored over the next week. Sacroiliac joint involvement is confirmed if your pain level decreases by more than 75%. If your pain level does not change after the injection, it is unlikely that the SI joint is the cause of your low back pain.
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