Low back pain – acute: Overview, Causes


Low back pain refers to a shooting or stabbing pain felt in your lower back. You may also have back stiffness, decreased movement of the lower back, and difficulty standing straight.

Acute back pain lasts from a few days to a few weeks.

Alternate Names

Backache, Low back pain, Lumbar pain, Pain – back, Acute back pain, Back pain – new, Back pain – short-term

Causes, & Risk Factors

If you are like most people, you will have at least one backache in your life. While such pain or discomfort can happen anywhere in your back, the most common area affected is your low back. This is because the low back supports most of your body’s weight.

Low back pain is the number two reason that Americans see their doctor — second only to colds and flus. Many back-related injuries happen at work. But you can change that. There are many things you can do to lower your chances of getting back pain.

You’ll usually first feel back pain just after you lift a heavy object, move suddenly, sit in one position for a long time, or have an injury or accident. But before that injury or accident, the structures in your back were losing strength or changing.

Acute low back pain is most often caused by a sudden injury to the muscles, ligaments, bones, and nerves in the spine. The source of the pain may be:

* Compression fractures to the spine from osteoporosis
* Muscle spasm (very tense muscles that remain contracted)
* Ruptured or herniated disk
* Spinal stenosis (narrowing of the spinal canal)
* Spine curvatures (like scoliosis or kyphosis), which may be inherited and seen in children or teens
* Strain or tears to the muscles or ligaments supporting the back

Back pain may also be due to:

* An abnormal aortic aneurysm that is leaking
* Arthritis conditions, such as osteoarthritis, psoriatic arthritis, and rheumatoid arthritis
* Cancer that involves the spine
* Fibromyalgia
* Infection of the spine (osteomyelitis, diskitis, abscess)
* Kidney infection or kidney stones
* Problems related to pregnancy
* Medical conditions that affect the female reproductive organs, including endometriosis, ovarian cysts, ovarian cancer, or uterine fibroids

Pictures & Images

There are five lumbar vertebrae located in the lower back. These vertebrae receive the most stress and are the weight-bearing portion of the back. The lumbar vertebrae allow movements such as flexion and extension, and some lateral flexion.

Review Date : 8/3/2010
Reviewed By : Linda J. Vorvick, MD, Medical Director, MEDEX Northwest Division of Physician Assistant Studies, University of Washington, School of Medicine. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.
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