Lower back pain is commonly experienced by many people. Sudden lower back pain can be an acute condition, which begins suddenly and may last for varying time periods. Sudden lower back pain is often a result of sudden damage to the joints and supporting structures of the back or may sometimes be related to inner organs. It is important to understand what can cause a sudden pain in lower back to be able to manage it appropriately.
What is Sudden Lower Back Pain?
Lower back pain is experienced in the lower region of the back, which includes the spine, lumbar and lower spinal vertebrae, areas on the left and right side of the spine and the lower portion which is rested when seating. Sudden pain is acute back pain, often felt as sharp, lightning or shooting type, which can sometimes make a person feel weak and unable to stand, bend or continue with the activity.
Sudden lower back pain may be felt with a burning, stabbing sensation and can also be accompanied with numbness and tingling in lower limbs. It may be related to specific activity or may worsen on making further movements. There may be a history of falling, sudden jerking movements, lifting of heavy weights, accidents or sport injuries.
When internal organs are involved pain may be of dull aching type but many conditions also cause sudden lower back pain. Hence proper evaluation is must.
What Can Cause Sudden Lower Back Pain?
Sudden lower back pain can be caused by some common conditions, which include:
Musculoskeletal Conditions That Can Cause Sudden Pain in Lower Back
The commonest cause of sudden lower back pain is injury or damage to the muscles and ligaments supporting the back and other joint related conditions. These include
- Injury to bones, joints, spinal vertebrae, muscles, ligaments, soft tissues and blood vessels in the lower back region. Sport injuries, falls, direct blows, accidents, etc. can cause damage to these structures leading to sudden lower back pain.
- Protrusion or herniation of intervertebral disc, annular tears and bulging of discs. These discs are protective cushions in between the spinal vertebrae, which if protrude from these original position, cause severe and sudden pain in lower back. This commonly occurs when the person is bending or lifting heavy objects or may occur with gradual wear and tear.
- Tensed muscles in the lower back can cause sudden sharp pain with a feeling of weakness in the muscles and inability to move or lift objects.
- Joint conditions and aging related problems like lumbar spondylosis, various types of arthritis, ankylosing spondylitis affecting lower back.
Being overweight and an inactive lifestyle can contribute to lower back pain. Poor posture, sitting for long hours, awkward movements, excessive use of lower back muscles causing overuse injuries or inappropriate ways of lifting weights, etc.
Spinal and Nerve Related Conditions That Can Cause Sudden Lower Back Pain
Many spinal conditions can cause sudden lower back pain:
- Fracture of spinal cord, compression fractures of spine, occurring due to osteoporosis and any other injury to the spinal vertebrae.
- Conditions of spine like spinal stenosis which is narrowing of the spinal canal, can cause sudden pain. It is often associated with nerve compression symptoms like burning sensation, numbness and tingling and sometimes weakness.
- Congenital or acquired conditions, which affect the curvatures of spine like scoliosis, kyphosis can cause sudden pain in lower, due to worsening of condition.
- Infections affecting the spine, tuberculosis, etc. and other spinal conditions like spina bifida, which causes acute damage to the nearby structures and certain types of cancers affecting the spine, etc. can cause sudden lower back pain
- Sciatica and other conditions causing nerve compression often cause sudden lower back pain with numbness and tingling in one or both legs.
- Sudden injury or damage to a nerve in the lower back can cause sharp, severe lower back pain.
Other Causes of Sudden Pain in Lower Back
Certain autoimmune disorders, renal problems like kidney stones, certain infections including pelvic infections, gynecological conditions, pregnancy related causes, tumors and spread of cancers, etc. too can cause lower back pain, ranging from dull aching pain to sudden lower back pain.
Symptoms of Sudden Lower Back Pain
Sudden lower back pain can be presented as sudden acute pain in the lower region of the back, during a particular activity, bending, lifting weight or travelling. Some symptoms associated with sudden lower back pain varying with the underlying cause are
- Inability to stand, walk or difficulty in movement of body parts.
- Radiating pain from the lower back to buttocks, back of thighs and legs.
- Pain that radiates from middle or lower back to the groin in front.
- The area of pain may be sore and tender to touch.
What to Watch for?
If lower back pain is severe and the person is unable to move, immediate medical care is needed. Sudden lower back pain, if accompanied with sudden weakness of lower limbs, loss of control of bowel and bladder, it can be a medical emergency.
Management of Sudden Lower Back Pain
Sudden lower back pain is managed with rest and immobilization for initial period when pain is present. Supporting the back can help. Ice or heat compresses may be used based on the condition. Treatment for sudden lower back pain depends on the underlying cause. Pain killers and anti-inflammatory medicines are given. Based on the causes and treatment, physical therapy may be required and gradual recovery of activities may be advised.