Learn some of the many different causes, exercises, special stretches, pain relief, and treatment options
Does Localized Lower Back Pain Indicate a Serious Problem?
Lower back pain is common. However, there are instances when this discomfort could be the result of more serious health issues. Knowing some of the different causes can help you determine if you need immediate medical attention.
Characteristics of Pain
There are different characteristics that describe pain. Pain can be different in intensity, type, timing, and location. Doctors will sometimes use the LOCATES pain scale to help you describe the pain to ensure the most accurate information is collected to ensure a more precise diagnosis.
LOCATES stands for….
- Other Symptoms
- Aggravating and Alleviating Factors
Your doctor will ask where the pain is located. Is it on your left side, middle, or right side? Does it travel to other areas of your body or does it remain in one area? Other symptoms can include numbness, nausea, and/or weakness.
The character section of the scale consists of determining whether it is throbbing, dull, sharp, or burning. The aggravating and alleviating factors consist of determining what improves or worsens your pain. Does the pain lessen when you rest or does it worsen when you bend over? These are just a couple questions your doctor may ask you.
The timing of your pain is important. How long has the pain lasted? Is it constant or does it come and go at different times? The length of time will determine if it is acute or chronic. The most common is acute pain that lasts a few days up to a few months. Chronic pain generally lasts a few months and can even last for years.
The environment is where an incident happened that could have caused the discomfort. Did something specific happen at work, at home, or in any other area? Severity is how intense the pain is. The majority of the time your doctor will ask you to rank the intensity from 0 to 10.
Common Causes for Left Side and Right Side Lower Back Pain
Most of the causes for pain in these areas are similar. For example, when you suffer from a kidney infection, you could actually experience pain in either the left or right side depending on which side the kidney is infected.
Here are some common causes for pain in the lower sides of the back:
- Lumbar Strain
- Breathing Pain
- Muscle Imbalance
- Herniated Disc
- Sciatic Nerve Compression
- Kidney Stones
- Kidney Infection
- Poor Posture
- Poor Form during Exercise
- Heavy Lifting
- Sacroiliac Joint Dysfunction
- Quadratus Lumborum Trigger Points
- Cauda Equine Syndrome
The most common causes for pain in either the lower right side or left side are injury and lumbar muscle strain. However, there are a number of different reasons to consider. Lumbar strain is microscopic tears of the fiber in your tendons, ligaments, or muscles. This often results in favoring a specific side. Muscle imbalance can be the result of tightness and inflammation in your muscles and tissues. They can put pressure on the nerves resulting in soreness.
When you are suffering from a kidney infection or kidney stones, you will feel tenderness in the area above your hips. You will likely experience burning when you urinate. Contact your physician right away if you have a fever or notice blood in your urine.
When your discs bulge, pressure is put on the nerves. This can result in compression of the sciatic nerve causing severe pain from your lower back to your buttocks down your leg. This is almost debilitating.
You may experience achiness on your lower left/right side during pregnancy. When your uterus expands, the gravity of your body will shift. Your abdominal muscles will stretch and weaken during this time. Your posture could change straining your lower back. If you experience more severe pain, this could be the result of your uterus pressing on a nerve. Your joints and ligaments that are attached to your pelvic bone could loosen. This could cause pain while sitting, standing, and walking for longer periods.
There are a few reasons why you could be experiencing pain when you breathe. Muscle spasms can be an indicator of a pulled diaphragm muscle causing radiated pain throughout your abdomen, back, and chest. More serious causes include cardiac and/or pulmonary issues. Because you cannot diagnose this problem without testing, it is highly recommended that you talk to your doctor.
Sacroiliac joints are paired joints that are located between the sacrum and hip bones in the lower back. Sacroiliac Joint Dysfunction occurs when there is too much or too little movement within either of these joints. Too much movement could result in a lax or sprained joint. Too little movement could result in a locked or hypo-mobile joint. The balance of your pelvis can be affected and can cause pain in either side depending on which side is affected.
Quadratus Lumborum muscle trigger points can cause pain in both sides depending on which side is affected. This is a quadrilateral shaped paired muscle. It helps to maintain your body’s posture. There are trigger points or hyper-irritable knots located within a tight band of muscle. This pain can cause reduced range of motion in that particular muscle.
Cauda Equine Syndrome occurs when the spinal cord is directly compressed and disc material expands into the spinal canal thus compressing the nerves. This is a serious condition and can cause permanent damage if not treated.
Although the causes for lower back pain cannot be truly determined without testing and proper diagnosis from a doctor, there are some specific reasons for pain in the sides rather than in the middle of your lower back. If the pain persists, it is important to visit your doctor. If you gather the information based on the LOCATES scale, you will be able to give the information necessary to ensure a more accurate diagnosis.