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Back Pain Health Center

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Low Back Strain

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Low back pain is a fact of life. Just about everybody will suffer from it sooner or later. One of the main causes of back pain, whether acute or chronic, is low back strain.

So what is low back strain? A series of muscles and ligaments in your back hold the bones of your spinal column in place. You can strain these muscles by stretching them too far, causing tiny tears in the tissue. The muscles are then weakened, so they may not be able to hold the bones of your spinal column in place correctly. The spine becomes less stable, causing low back pain.

And because nerves stretch out from the spinal cord throughout the entire body, low back strain can cause pain in areas other than your back.

Low back strain can be caused by:

  • Extreme physical exertion.
  • Falling.
  • Bending or crouching repeatedly.
  • Lifting heavy objects if you are not in shape.

It can also be caused by emotional stress, improper posture, being overweight, out of shape, or sitting in the same position for long periods of time. Even a severe cough can result in low back strain.

Keep in mind that low back strain can't be blamed for all back pain. There are many other causes, like slipped discs, fractures, pinched nerves, arthritis, and infections.

What Does Low Back Strain Feel Like?

Symptoms of low back strain include:

  • Pain and stiffness in the back.
  • Pain in the buttocks and the legs, often in the back of the thigh.
  • Pain that worsens when bending, stretching, coughing, or sneezing.

Since some symptoms of low back strain are similar to those of more serious conditions, it's important to get checked out by a doctor. Any numbness and weakness in your legs, or bowel and bladder problems, can be a sign of nerve damage -- and that needs immediate medical attention.

To diagnose low back strain, your doctor will give you a thorough exam. You may also need X-rays, MRIs (Magnetic Resonance Imaging), and CT scans. These extra tests may only be needed if your pain doesn't go away on its own or with conservative treatment.

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