If your back pain is dull, mild, or intermittent, you may be able to ignore it with relative ease until it passes. However, this isn’t likely to be the case if you have sharp pain in your lumbar (lower) spine area. This type of pain usually demands immediate attention. But what could cause this type of lower back pain (LBP)? More importantly, what can you do about it? Below, we answer these questions.
Because the lower back is so mobile and supported by various muscles, ligaments, tendons, joints, spinal bones, and discs, it can be difficult to zero in on a specific cause of sharp LBP. Common culprits are muscle strains and tears. Soft tissues are more likely to be affected if your pain was triggered by an overextension of your lower spine muscles. Other possible causes of sharp and/or intense lower back pain include:
• Irritation of the sciatic nerve, which starts in the lower back and moves downward
• Herniated or bulging spinal discs
• Spinal fractures
• Spinal tumors or infections in the lumbar spine
Sharp lower back pain may be a stand-alone symptom, but it’s also sometimes combined with other symptoms. For instance, you might experience muscle weakness or stiffness, difficulty walking, reduced range of motion, or issues with bowel or bladder functions.*
*If symptoms of this nature are experienced, seek immediate medical attention.
Making a diagnosis can be challenging because of the many factors involved with sharp lower back pain. Along with a physical evaluation and a review of your symptoms and medical history, this process may involve your doctor having you perform simple movements to determine the LBP triggers and evaluating results from image tests.
As for treatment, there’s a tendency to start with conservative care options, such as anti-inflammatory drugs, therapeutic exercises, and gentle stretching. This is likely to be the case if your Santa Monica spine surgeon doesn’t find a serious structural problem or your symptoms aren’t debilitating or potentially life-threatening. If there are soft tissue or disc issues, you may also be advised to try hot and cold applications to increase circulation and reduce inflammation in the affected area. Treatment of sharp LBP may also involve:
• Massage therapy or other forms of spinal manipulation
• Antibiotics if tests reveal you have an infection
• Surgery to remove a spinal tumor
• Minimally invasive procedures to correct issues with spinal discs or fractures
As far as prevention of sharp lower back pain goes, being mindful of your posture is a good starting point. And if you normally lift heavy objects at work, paying attention to proper lifting techniques is just as important. A supportive device such as a lumbar support belt may be helpful as well. Lastly, report any new, unusual, or lingering lower back pain to your doctor so a diagnosis can be made as soon as possible.
Lower back discomfort is one of the most common spinal health issues, and its effects can range from mild pain to complete debilitation, so it’s best to know its causes as well as how to treat and prevent it. If you’re experiencing sharp lower back pain or you have any other questions or concerns about your spinal health, the experienced professionals at The Spine Institute are here to help. Our spine experts are leaders in every aspect of spine care, including prevention and state-of-the-art treatments, including alternatives to spinal fusion surgery. Santa Monica residents are urged to call one of our friendly representatives today at 310-828-7757 to schedule a consultation.