For both men and women, the most debilitating lower back pain is often the kind that happens suddenly and leaves you in extreme pain and with very limited mobility. The fact that the pain can happen so suddenly and so severely can be very alarming. But, it is actually very common. While most of the time the cause of sudden onset lower back pain is not related to a serious issue, a very small percentage of the cases are rare and can be very dangerous.
Now let's discuss these causes and their symptoms, starting with the most common:
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#1 Mechanical Back Pain
In the vast majority of cases, sudden onset lower back pain is what is called a "mechanical" pain, which is a term used to describe a nonspecific pain where the exact origin of it is not clear. This type of pain is usually due to something such as a musculoskeletal cause, or even something as simple as a muscle spasm. This pain is not very serious or severe, and can generally be relieved by lying down and keeping it easy for a while.
The second most common reason for sudden onset lower back pain is sciatica, which is an irritation of the sciatic nerve that runs from the bottom of both sides of your spine through your legs and all the way down to your big toes. Most of the time the irritation of the nerve is caused by a pinching of the nerve at the spine. The five most common causes of Sciatica are:
- Herniated Disc
- Bulging Disc
- Degenerated Disc
- Spinal Stenosis
- Piriformis Syndrome
Sciatica pain is very distinctive because it not only causes pain in your lower back, but also in any area that the nerve travels. So, people suffering with sciatica can usually also feel pain in one or both buttocks, thighs, knees, calves, or feet. You may also experience a feeling of pins and needles/numbness/weakness in those areas.
#3 Minor Trauma
Minor injuries to the discs in your lower back can happen at any time as a result of a minimal trauma. As much as one third of the population of the United States at any given time have bulging discs and do not even know it, because they are not pressing against a nerve to cause any pain. But that can change suddenly, and by the most minor of actions or movements. Doing something as simple as bending over to pick something up off the floor or sneezing can cause these previously painless and silent back problems to press up against a nerve and cause sudden and extreme pain.
These following conditions that cause sudden onset lower back pain are less common but can be very serious:
#4 Cauda Equina Syndrome
This condition is very rare and also dangerous enough to be considered an emergency if someone has it. It is a disorder that causes pressure on the nerves at the bottom of the spinal cord, whose symptoms include:
- Leg Weakness
- Numbness in the "saddle" region below the tailbone
- Bowel and bladder problems, including the inability to urinate
If you are experiencing any of these symptoms along with your sudden onset lower back pain, seek medical attention immediately as it can result in permanent nerve damage.
Arthritis is a disorder that causes inflammation and pain in the joints of the body. There are over 100 different types of arthritis, and the most common is Osteoarthritis, which is usually caused by age or trauma to a joint. Rheumatoid arthritis is another common type that can affect the spine and other joints in the body, and a common type that only affects the spine and back is Ankylosing Spondylitis. These all have symptoms that include pain that is reduced by activity, pain that gets worse after going to bed or when waking up in the morning, and stiffness after waking up that lasts over 30 minutes.
#6 Bone disorders, tumors, or infections
These conditions only cause less than 1% of all sudden onset lower back pain, but they are extremely serious. Some of the symptoms of these are:
- Unexplained weight loss
- Depressed immune system
- A history of cancer anywhere in the body
- The onset of non-injury related pain in someone over 50 or under 20 years of age
People experiencing these symptoms with their sudden onset lower back pain should see a doctor immediately.
#6 Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm
This condition is an enlargement of the abdominal artery that is mostly seen in men over 60 who have high blood pressure, high cholesterol, or who smoke. It is also extremely rare. The symptoms of an abdominal aortic aneurysm include back pain, a pulsating feeling near the navel, and constant pain in or on the side of the abdomen.
As with all back pain, the best way to determine the cause of your sudden onset lower back pain is to see a back specialist or health care professional.
The Illinois Back Institute is dedicated to educating people, because we know that the more that you understand about your problem, the more likely you are to eliminate it.
If you are interested in attending one of our Free Sciatica and Back Pain Relief Educational Seminars, click here:
Also, if you are suffering with Sciatica and would like to know more about it, we have our Free 10 Part Series that is all about Sciatica. Click here to sign up: