Lower Back Pain: Symptoms & Treatments

By Tens Machine UK Content Team  .  Last Updated Sunday, 6th August 2023

Causes lower back pain

Lower back pain, a common and often perplexing ailment, can stem from a wide array of sources. Unraveling the intricate web of factors contributing to lower back pain is crucial for devising effective lower back pain treatment plans. Among the diverse origins of lower back pain are:

  1. Slipped (Herniated) Disc: A herniated disc occurs when the cushions between vertebrae shift out of place, pressing against surrounding spinal nerves. This can result in the well-known condition called sciatica, characterized by shooting pain along the leg.
  2. Fractures: Vertebrae fractures, caused by traumatic events or conditions like osteoporosis, can be a source of persistent lower back pain. Even seemingly minor incidents, like lifting or bending, can lead to fractures.
  3. Facet Joint Pain: The joints linking spinal bones, known as facet joints, can become a source of discomfort. Inflammation or dysfunction in these joints may trigger localized or radiating pain.
  4. Inflammatory Lower Back Pain: Certain conditions, such as ankylosing spondylitis, lead to inflammation in spinal joints and ligaments, resulting in lower back pain.
  5. Systemic Effects: Back pain can occasionally arise from issues affecting other organs, like the kidneys, pancreas, or bowel. In rarer cases, more serious conditions like infections or cancer may manifest as lower back pain.
  6. Non-Specific Back Pain: The most prevalent form of back pain, it lacks a distinct cause. Often linked to muscle, tendon, or ligament strain due to activities such as lifting, sedentary behavior, or prolonged standing.

Amidst these varied causes, certain risk factors can heighten your vulnerability to back pain:

  • Lifting and Posture: Incorrect lifting techniques or poor posture can strain back muscles, leading to discomfort.
  • Weight: Excess body weight places added stress on the spine, increasing the likelihood of back pain.
  • Physical Inactivity: A sedentary lifestyle weakens back muscles, potentially resulting in pain over time.
  • Occupational Factors: The demands of certain jobs, along with work-related stress and prolonged standing, can contribute to back pain.
  • Emotional Well-being: Emotional factors like depression and stress can impact pain perception, exacerbating back discomfort.

Arthritis of the Spine: 

The gradual degeneration of spinal joints due to aging is a common cause of lower back pain. As cartilage deteriorates, inflammation and increased friction within the joints contribute to discomfort.

Back Injuries: 

Back injuries, whether sudden and traumatic or gradual, can arise from everyday activities or accidents. Surprisingly, it's not just athletes who are at risk; even simple tasks like lifting an object can lead to back injuries when done improperly.

Herniated Discs: 

When a disc protrudes from its normal position, it can irritate nearby nerves, causing localized or radiating pain. Herniated discs often occur in the lower back. 

Symptoms of Lower Back Pain

The experience of lower back pain varies among individuals, exhibiting a range of symptoms. It can manifest suddenly, often triggered by lifting heavy objects or straining movements that strain the back. 

Alternatively, it might appear gradually over time, seemingly without a clear cause. The nature of the discomfort varies as well, with some describing a dull ache while others liken it to a tearing or burning sensation. Triggers that exacerbate the pain or provide relief differ from person to person. This pain's intensity spans from mild to severe.

For those grappling with sciatica - especially looking for treatment for sciatica, the pain may radiate from the back or buttocks down the leg, potentially extending to the foot or toes.

The onset of lower back pain symptoms hinges on the underlying cause. Various scenarios can unfold:

  1. Gradual Onset of Pain: Symptoms stemming from repetitive motions or strain-inducing positions typically develop gradually and worsen progressively. Individuals may experience a constant, lingering ache, which intensifies after specific activities or prolonged periods, such as at the end of a taxing day.
  2. Intermittent Pain that Escalates: Degenerative disc disease can lead to sporadic bouts of low back pain, with the discomfort fluctuating in intensity over time. These pain flare-ups tend to amplify gradually, spanning an extended duration.
  3. Immediate Pain Post-Injury: Instances involving sudden, forceful movements have the potential to inflict acute pain, stemming from damage to the spine and its supporting muscles. This pain manifests immediately following the injury.
  4. Delayed Onset after Injury: Symptoms might exhibit a delay of several hours or days after an accident or injury. This delayed discomfort often arises as a consequence of the natural healing processes within the muscles.

How do you relieve lower back pain?

There are a number of ways to assist with relieving lower back pain relief, some you may have tried before but there are alternative methods or options that can help before trying others:

  1. Walking for Exercise: Embrace the simplicity and effectiveness of walking as an exercise, a form of easy or low cardio exercise. Whether integrating brisk walks during your work hours or exploring the outdoors, walking helps maintain a healthy weight and alleviates back pressure.
  2. Weight Management for Spinal Wellness: Vigilantly monitor your weight to prevent straining your back. Excess weight can disrupt spinal balance, leading to uneven stress distribution and potential curvature abnormalities over time.
  3. Give up Smoking: Prioritize your spinal well-being by quitting smoking. Smoking hampers blood flow to vertebral discs, accelerating degeneration. Moreover, it impedes calcium absorption and new bone growth, heightening the risk of osteoporosis-related fractures.
  4. Optimal Sitting Posture: Cultivate a habit of maintaining proper sitting posture to minimize stress on your lower spinal discs, especially during prolonged periods of sitting. Regular breaks to stretch and move are crucial to prevent strain. 
  5. Icing and Warming: Address injuries by alternating between ice and heat therapies. Ice application several times a day for short intervals can help reduce pain and inflammation, followed by heat therapy using a heating pad or warm pack to relax muscles and enhance blood circulation. Warm baths offer additional relaxation benefits.
  6. Tens Machines (Nerve Stimulation): In cases where conventional approaches fall short, consider innovative treatments like acupuncture or transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS). Acupuncture stimulates nerves to alleviate chronic lower back pain, while TENS employs gentle electrical pulses to interrupt pain signals. Our page for Tens Machines assists you with your choice, especially those that are looking for Tens Machines for lower back pain.

How do you sleep with lower back pain? 

Selecting an appropriate sleeping position is essential, especially for individuals dealing with lower back concerns. To cater to your needs, here are five highly effective sleeping positions to consider:

  1. Sleeping on Your Side with Knee Support: If lying flat on your back feels uncomfortable, consider shifting to your side:

    - Allow either your right or left shoulder to rest on the mattress, along with the corresponding side of your body.
    - Place a pillow between your knees for added support.
    - If there's a gap between your waist and the mattress, you can use a small pillow there as well.

    To note when sleeping in this position: It's important to avoid always sleeping on the same side to prevent potential issues like muscle imbalance or scoliosis. The key to this position is using the knee pillow, which helps maintain better alignment of your hips, pelvis, and spine.
  2. Fetal Position Side Sleeping: If you have a herniated disc, consider trying the fetal position on your side:

    - Start by lying on your back and gently roll over onto your side.
    - Draw your knees towards your chest and curl your torso toward your knees.
    - Make sure to alternate sides occasionally to prevent imbalances.

    Another thing to note: Curling into the fetal position creates space between your vertebrae, which can be especially beneficial for individuals with herniated discs.
  3. Stomach Sleeping with Abdominal Pillow: While sleeping on your stomach may be discouraged for back pain, there's a modified approach:

    - Place a pillow under your pelvis and lower abdomen to alleviate some pressure on your back
    - Depending on comfort, you may or may not use a pillow under your head.

    Little bit more information around this: People dealing with degenerative disc disease may find relief from stomach sleeping with an abdominal pillow, which helps reduce stress on the discs.
  4. Back Sleeping with Knee Pillow: For some, sleeping on their back may offer relief from back pain.

    - Lie flat on your back.
    - Position a pillow beneath your knees to maintain a neutral spine. You can also use a small rolled-up towel for additional lumbar support.

    Sleeping on your back distributes weight evenly, minimizing strain on pressure points and promoting better spinal alignment.
  5. Reclined Back Sleeping: If you find comfort in a reclined position, particularly for isthmic spondylolisthesis:

    - Consider using an adjustable bed to achieve the best alignment and support.

    Reclining can be beneficial for isthmic spondylolisthesis, a condition where a vertebra slips over the one below it. This position creates an angle between your thighs and trunk, reducing pressure on your spine.