Lower Back Pain

Lower back pain slowing you down or keeping you from doing what you love? Just because it's common doesn't make it hurt less. Find your path to more complete healing of low back pain, with Hoag. At Hoag Spine Institute, we share a team-wide commitment to conservative, non-invasive and restorative treatment strategies, helping patients come back strong from spinal issues with less pain and shorter recovery time. With a robust, whole-body approach to diagnosing and treating back pain as well as spinal deformities, tumors and injuries, Hoag Spine Institute is ready to help you heal.

Need Advanced Lower Back Pain Diagnosis? Orange County Trusts Hoag for Next-Generation Spine Care.

Those with chronic lower back pain in Orange County have a strong and capable ally, at the Hoag Spine Institute.

With a commitment to conservative, less-invasive treatment options, advanced diagnostics and a nationally recognized team of spine experts, Hoag has what it takes to help you find relief from that nagging pain in your lower back for good.

Read on for what you need to know about lumbar spine pain, including symptoms, what causes lower back pain, and ways to potentially reduce your risk of a low back injury. Trust the Hoag Spine Institute to help you return to the activities you love with confidence. Contact us today at 949-764-1411 or through our online form.

What is Lower Back Pain?

Lower back pain, also called “low back pain” or lumbar spine pain, is a common condition characterized by pain in the lower part of the back, usually between the lower ribs and the top of the buttocks.

Lower back pain can range from a dull ache to a sharp, stabbing pain that can vary in intensity from mild to severe. In some cases, pain in the lower back can also radiate out to other areas of the body, including the buttocks, legs and feet.

Acute lower back pain only lasts a short time, usually improving with conservative treatments like over the counter pain relievers and bed rest. However, if lower back pain lasts more than three months without relief, it’s considered chronic lower back pain. Chronic back pain may indicate a more serious issue.

Those with chronic pain in the lower spine may need other treatment options to achieve back pain relief, including lifestyle changes, injections of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, prescription pain relievers, muscle relaxants, transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation, massage therapy or physical therapy.

In severe cases involving muscle weakness and muscle spasms, or if severe lower back pain persists despite treatment with more conservative measures, surgical procedures like spinal fusion or disc surgery may have to be considered to relieve pressure on nearby nerves and address the root cause of pain in the lower back.

What is the Lower Back?

The lower back, also called the lumbar spine, is the region of the back that extends from the bottom of your ribcage to the top of the buttocks.

Structurally, the lower back is made up of five vertebrae, referred to as L1 to L5. Roughly cylindrical, with a hole in the middle that forms what’s called the spinal canal, the vertebrae of the lower back help provide protection for the spinal cord, the thin bundle of nerve fibers that transmits information from the brain to the muscles and vice versa.

Between each of the vertebrae of the lower back are spinal discs. Also called intervertebral discs, these are round, rubbery pads. With a gel-like inner material and a tough outer layer, the discs provide cushioning for the spine while allowing the back to be very flexible.

Together with the core muscles, soft tissues and ligaments that provide spine support and stability, these structures form what’s commonly referred to as “the lower back.”

What Can Cause Lower Back Pain?

A wide range of issues can cause or contribute to chronic back pain, from minor muscle pulls to more serious issues like kidney stones and herniated spinal discs. Common causes of lower back pain include:

Muscle Strain

Muscle strain, commonly called a “pulled muscle,” is considered the most common cause of acute lower back pain. Pain due to muscle strain in the lower back can be caused by overuse, making awkward movements or lifting heavy objects without the proper form.

Repetitive motions like bending, twisting or reaching can also strain the muscles and ligaments in the lower back, especially if a person has other risk factors like weak core muscle strength or obesity.

Herniated Discs

The spinal discs between each vertebra in the lower back act as natural shock absorbers, while providing excellent flexibility to the lower back. In some cases, damage to the spinal discs can cause them to experience what’s called herniation, which is when the soft inner material of the disc bulges through a tear in the outer shell.

That bulge can put pressure on the spinal cord or compress nerve roots (radiculopathy, or a “pinched nerve”), which the brain perceives as pain signals from the lower back. That can result in chronic extremity pain, weakness in the muscles and other issues that may be severe.

Visit here for more information about herniated disks from Hoag, or visit here to learn more about radiculopathy.


Arthritis is a degenerative joint disease that can affect the small joints in the spine, leading to inflammation, stiffness and chronic back pain.

Osteoarthritis, the most common type of arthritis, often develops due to the wear and tear of normal aging and can affect the spine. Visit here to learn more about osteoarthritis and the spine from Hoag.

Rheumatoid arthritis is another type of arthritis that can cause pain in the lower back. Rheumatoid arthritis is a type of autoimmune disease, with the body’s defense mechanisms mistakenly identifying the joints as harmful invaders and attacking them, causing inflammation and pain.

Ankylosing spondylitis is another type of arthritis that can cause chronic back pain by creating inflammation in the ligaments and joints that give support and flexibility to the spine.

Traumatic Injury

Injury of the vertebrae, muscles or spinal discs of the lower back due to factors like falls, playing full-contact sports or vehicle accidents is a common cause of problems like broken bones, spinal fractures and herniated discs, which can cause lower back pain

Other Causes of Lower Back Pain
  • Poor posture: Slouching or hunching for extended periods can strain your back muscles and ligaments resulting in lower back pain.
  • Congenital structural problems with the spine: Issues or deformities of the vertebrae, spinal discs and other tissues that are present at birth.
  • Obesity: Carrying excess body weight puts extra stress on your spine and back muscles when bending, twisting or moving, which can increase the risk of issues like herniated disks that can cause lower back pain.
  • Menstruation: In some cases, particularly heavy menstrual cramps can radiate from the abdomen to the lower back, causing lower back pain. Those with endometriosis are often more at risk for lower back pain during their period.
  • Smoking tobacco: Smoking reduces blood flow throughout the body, including to the spine. That can hinder the healing of issues like tears in the intervertebral discs, potentially leading to herniated discs and lower back pain.
  • Certain medical conditions: A variety of medical conditions can cause lower back pain, including kidney stones, infections, tumors and scoliosis, an issue that causes abnormal curvatures of the spine.

What Are Other Symptoms of Low Back Problems?

Lower back pain is sometimes accompanied by other symptoms, which can sometimes indicate the cause of the pain. Symptoms that sometimes accompany lumbar pain may include:

Musculoskeletal Symptoms
  • Stiffness: Commonly called “tight muscles,” stiffness can cause difficulty bending, straightening or twisting your back, and is often worse in the morning or after sitting for a while.
  • Muscle spasms: Involuntary contractions of back muscles, which cause tightness, pain and visible “knots” in the muscles that can be seen through the skin.
  • Limited range of motion: Due to stiffness and pain, those with lower back issues may have problems performing specific movements, like walking, standing from a chair or getting in or out of bed.
Nerve-Related Issues
  • Severe, radiating pain: Those with lower back issues may experience pain that radiates into the buttocks or legs, which may indicate potential nerve compression and sciatica.
  • Numbness and tingling: Loss of sensation in the legs, buttocks, genitals or anus may indicate a compressed nerve.
  • Muscle weakness: In more severe cases, lower back issues can cause muscle weakness, which can result in problems like climbing stairs or standing for long periods of time.
Other Issues That Can Accompany Lower Back Pain
  • Fever: When accompanied by lower back pain, having a fever could indicate an infection, potentially including a urinary tract infection or kidney infection.
  • Urinary problems: Lower back pain accompanied by difficulty urinating or burning pain while urinating could potentially indicate you have kidney stones, a urinary tract infection or some other kidney-related issues.
  • Loss of bladder or bowel control: When experienced along with lower back pain, the inability to control the bladder or bowels can indicate a person might have cauda equina syndrome, a potentially dangerous condition in which the bundle of nerves at the lower end of the spinal cord becomes compressed. If you experience loss of bladder or bowel control during an episode of lower back pain, please seek evaluation and treatment by a doctor immediately.

What are the Risk Factors for Low Back Pain?

There are a number of risk factors that can increase the odds of experiencing lower back pain. These may include:

  • Getting older may result in degenerative disc disease in which the intervertebral discs between each vertebrae of the lower back become damaged and lose their elasticity due to the wear and tear of aging. That can make the discs more likely to experience herniation, which can put pressure on the spinal cord or nerve roots, resulting in lower back pain.
  • Having a job or hobby that requires you to often bend or twist, especially while lifting heavy objects. Not wearing the proper protective equipment while lifting heavy things for exercise or work can also result in damage that can cause pain in the lower back.
  • Having a history of kidney stones, or urinary tract infections, which can sometimes cause pain in the low back.
  • Being female, as issues like menstruation and pregnancy can sometimes cause lower back pain.
  • Being obese, which can put extra strain on the structure of the lower back.
  • Having congenital (present at birth) issues that result cause structural problems with the lower back or spine.
  • Having weak core muscles, which are the back and abdominal muscles that provide strong support for the lower back.

Is There any Way to Reduce My Risk Factors for Low Back Pain?

There is no known way to definitely prevent yourself from experiencing lower back pain. However, there are certain steps you can take to potentially prevent back pain or relieve pain from a previous injury.

These steps may include:

  • Keep your core strong: The muscles of the back and abdomen, commonly called the core or core muscles, provide strength, support and flexibility to the back, helping prevent issues like herniated discs or spinal fractures during awkward movements or falls. An exercise routine specifically designed to strengthen muscles in the core can potentially help prevent injuries that can lead to lower back pain.
  • Maintain a healthy weight: Because extra weight can put added pressure on the lower back, weight loss is an important way you can potentially avoid pain in the lumbar spine.
  • Maintain good posture: Having poor posture while standing or sitting causes the lower back to experience more pressure than it usually would, which can increase the odds of experiencing issues like herniated disks or muscle pulls that can cause lower back pain. Exercises and tips to improve posture are readily available.
  • Wear proper protective equipment: While participating in any sport, hobby or pursuit that could potentially lead to a traumatic injury of the spine, it is important to wear proper protective equipment.
  • Drink plenty of water: Keep your urinary tract healthy and avoid issues like kidney infections and UTIs with plenty of water.
  • If you experience pain while lifting, bending or twisting, stop what you’re doing: It is important to stop if needed to avoidcausing more back pain or damage that could lead to pain in the lower back.

In many cases, conservative treatments like rest and over-the-counter pain relievers and other treatments can deliver lasting lower back pain relief and successfully reduce inflammation, muscle strain and other issues that might be causing pain in the lower back.

If at-home back pain treatment doesn’t make your lower back pain subside, see a doctor for evaluation and more aggressive back pain treatment options, potentially including physical therapy, cortisone injections or other medications.

Need a Lower Back Pain Specialist in Orange County? The Hoag Spine Institute Has What You Need to Heal.

Few things in life are more frustrating than chronic back pain. When it’s bad enough, the pain caused by low back issues can be all-consuming, keeping you from working, exercising, sleeping and doing what you love.

But those with chronic back pain in Orange County have a strong friend in the neighborhood, at Hoag. At the Hoag Spine Institute, our nationally ranked team of imaging specialists, physical therapists, spine experts and spinal surgeons is united in one goal: finding the personalized back pain treatment options and the individualized treatment plan you need to reduce pain, increase your range of motion and get you moving again.

We’re committed to delivering advanced treatment options, with a commitment not only to relieving pain, but providing relief that lasts. If conservative treatment options don’t do enough to ease pain in your lower back, Hoag is Orange County’s source for less-invasive spine surgery, with shorter recovery times and less pain.

Do you need treatment for lower back pain in Huntington Beach, Costa Mesa, Laguna Beach, Lake Forest, Fountain Valley or other communities across Orange County? Then you owe it to yourself to find the team with the tools, techniques and technology you need to end your pain for good.

To learn more about Hoag Spine Institute, or to schedule a comprehensive diagnostic evaluation with a Hoag spine care specialist, please contact us today at 949-764-1411 or through our online form.

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