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Lower Back Pain: Signs It’s Time to See a Specialist


The lower back is one of the most common areas to experience pain. Lower back pain can be caused by a number of factors, including physical exertion, poor posture, obesity, and sleeping habits, or from medical conditions like spinal stenosis. While lower back pain can often be alleviated through exercises, posture changes, or rest, there are times when your lower back pain will need to be assessed by a medical provider. Knowing the signs that it is time to see a provider can help prevent further damage or ongoing pain.

Common Causes of Lower Back Pain

Young sportsman suffers from lower back pain while exercising

Lower back pain often occurs when there is a change in how the structures of the back interact with each other. Your muscles, spinal cord, and connecting nerves create a complex system that not only keeps you upright but also transmits information back and forth between your brain and the rest of your body.¹

If any part of this system stops functioning at its best, your pain receptors will be triggered. Pain is the body’s way of letting us know that there is something wrong with a part of its system. Pain can be created by injury, inflammation, or nerve compression, and the pain is how the body lets us know that a problem has occurred and needs to be addressed.²

Lower back pain can occur suddenly or gradually build over time and is often described as a sharp, burning, dull, or cramping feeling. There may also be sensations of tingling or numbness along the affected area.¹

Medical providers categorize pain as either acute or chronic:

  • Acute Pain: Acute pain refers to pain that is relatively short lived. Any episode of pain that clears up as the injury or issue heals itself is considered acute.
  • Chronic Pain: Chronic pain may go on for weeks, months, or even years and can last even after the initial injury or issue is corrected. Untreated or incorrectly treated medical issues may also lead to chronic pain.³

Lower back pain can be a result of any number of conditions and situations. While most back pain is a result of the mechanics of the back not functioning at their best, other causes of back pain are:

  • Congenital Conditions that were present at birth, such as spinal structure issues like scoliosis and spina bifida.
  • Injuries such as sprains, pulled muscles, bruises, or injuries from sports or accidents.
  • Degenerative conditions such as arthritis, disc disease, or wearing away of aspects of the spine due to age and wear and tear
  • Problems with the spine that cause pain by compressing nerves, such as sciatica, spinal stenosis, ruptured or compressed discs, infections, and bone fractures caused by osteoporosis¹.

Lower back pain can also be a symptom of a medical condition that is stemming from another part of your body. Kidney infections, endometriosis, and even pregnancy can create back pain.

When to See a Specialist About Back Pain

Concept of backpain patient visiting doctor in clinic

While a back pain condition can sometimes clear up on its own, certain symptoms can indicate a need to visit an orthopedic or another specialist. If back pain persists for more than a week, is accompanied by a fever, is affecting other body parts, is a result of a fall or accident, or is affecting your bladder or bowels, you should see a medical provider right away.⁴

Follow up with a primary care provider or orthopedic specialist is recommended if your back pain persists for more than a week and you are also experiencing any of these symptoms:

  • Numbness or tingling in your arms or legs
  • Trouble with your bladder or bowels
  • Weakness in your arms or legs
  • Lower back pain while walking or standing
  • Problems keeping your balance
  • Falling when you are standing still

Your medical provider will ask you questions about your symptoms, such as when you first noticed your lower back pain starting, and may require additional tests or a referral to an orthopedic specialist. Once the cause of your lower back pain is diagnosed, your provider can help treat your lower back pain.

Treatment Options for Lower Back Pain

Your medical provider will work with you to determine the best way to identify the source of your pain. They will help reduce your immediate pain, work with you to directly address the cause of your lower back pain, and create a plan for long-term treatment if necessary.⁵

Some of the treatments for low back pain are:

  • Prescription medications such as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), gabapentin, or muscle relaxants can help reduce inflammation and pain.
  • Over-the-counter (OTC) medications such as NSAIDs reduce pain and inflammation.
  • Cortisone injections or steroid medications may be used to reduce pain and inflammation.
  • Activity modification can help relieve pain when you learn to use your muscles in healthier ways.
  • Transcutaneous electrical stimulation (TENS) can help relieve pain and can be used on the surface of the body or can be implanted surgically.
  • Integrative treatments such as Tai chi, acupuncture, and yoga have been shown to have beneficial effects on back pain.
  • Antibiotics can alleviate back pain if it is caused by infection.
  • Braces help support the bones and muscles of the back.
  • Exercise and physical therapy strengthens the muscles that support the spine and help take the pressure off the nerves.
  • Surgery helps to resolve the condition that is creating the pain and can often be done in a minimally invasive manner.⁶

Prompt and thorough back pain treatment by a medical provider can not only bring relief but also help slow the progression of certain conditions. The goal of your provider is to restore an optimal level of functioning so that you can return to a better quality of life.

Get Relief from Lower Back Pain at Crystal Run Healthcare

Here at Crystal Run Healthcare, our team of specialists can help you create a plan for treatment options for back problems. Crystal Run’s orthopedic surgeons work in coordination with our pain management and rehabilitation specialists to deliver the best treatment options for a wide variety of back problems. Specialists at Crystal Run also use the most recent diagnostic technology and minimally invasive treatments to restore vitality and relieve pain.

Contact us by calling 845-703-6999. You may need to see your PCP, who can give you a referral to a specialist, orbook an appointment with a specialist online.