Read below about lower back pain, including causes and common questions. Or get a personalized analysis of your lower back pain from our A.I. health assistant. At Buoy, we build tools that help you know what’s wrong right now and how to get the right care.

A.I. Health Assistant

Take a quiz to find out why you’re having lower back pain

Take Quiz

A.I. Health Assistant Causes for Lower Back Pain

The list below shows results from the use of our A.I. Health Assistant by Buoy users who experienced lower back pain. This list does not constitute medical advice.

  1. 1.Low Back Strain

    A strain, commonly called a "pulled muscle," is when a muscle becomes overstretched and tears. A low back strain happens when one of the muscles in the lower back is stressed due to an unusual movement (such as lifting a heavy object, or lifting while twisting).

    This is usually a self-limiting problem, and should subside on its own within weeks.

    Rarity:
    Common
    Top Symptoms:
    lower back pain, back pain that gets worse when sitting, back pain that gets worse when straightening it, lower left back pain, lower right back pain
    Symptoms that always occur with low back strain:
    lower back pain
    Symptoms that never occur with low back strain:
    involuntary defecation, first time leaking urine, back numbness, toe numbness, foot numbness
    Urgency:
    Self-treatment
  2. 2.Traumatic Vertebral Fracture

    Vertebral fracture is a fracture or dislocation of a vertebra that can cause bone fragments to pinch and damage the spinal nerves or spinal cord. Most spinal fractures occur from car accidents, falls, gunshot, or sports.

    Variable depending on severity (months)

    Rarity:
    Common
    Top Symptoms:
    back pain, constant back pain, severe back pain, back pain that shoots down the leg, back pain affecting the spine
    Symptoms that always occur with traumatic vertebral fracture:
    back pain
    Symptoms that never occur with traumatic vertebral fracture:
    mild back pain
    Urgency:
    Emergency medical service
  3. 3.Herniated (Slipped) Disk in the Lower Back

    The backbone, or spine, is made up of 26 bones called vertebrae. In between the bones are soft disks filled with a jelly-like substance. These disks cushion the vertebrae and keep them in place. Although people talk about a slipped disk, nothing actually slips out of place. The outer shell of the disk ruptures, and the jelly-like substance bulges out. It may be pressing on a nerve, which is what causes the pain.A slipped disk is more likely to happen due to strain on the back, such as during heavy lifting, and older individuals are at higher risk.

    The pain associated with a slipped disk usually goes away within six weeks. If the pain lasts longer, consult a doctor. They may send you to see a back specialist for an MRI of your spine, and surgery may be considered.

    Rarity:
    Common
    Top Symptoms:
    lower back pain, moderate back pain, back pain that shoots down the leg, back pain that gets worse when sitting, leg weakness
    Urgency:
    Primary care doctor
  4. 4.Iliolumbar Syndrome

    Iliolumbar Syndrome is caused by a tear of the iliolumbar ligament, which connects the hip to the spine. It's caused by overuse or acute trauma to the area.

    1-2 months

    Rarity:
    Common
    Top Symptoms:
    lower back pain, back pain that shoots to the butt, severe back pain, back pain that shoots to the groin
    Symptoms that always occur with iliolumbar syndrome:
    lower back pain
    Urgency:
    Primary care doctor
  5. 5.Chronic Low Back Pain of No Specific Origin

    A precise anatomical cause for low back pain can only be identified in 20 percent of cases. The rest of the time, the specific cause of the pain is unknown, and is likely due to strain on the bones and muscles of the back from heavy lifting, prolong sitting, or bad posture. Chronic low back pain is characteristic of back pain lasting longer than 12 weeks.

    The prognosis of chronic back pain is highly variable, and heavily dependent on the individual. However, it is not a life-threatening condition and is expected to significantly improve with directed exercises and staying active.

    Rarity:
    Common
    Top Symptoms:
    lower back pain, unintentional weight loss, back pain that shoots to the butt, fever, involuntary defecation
    Symptoms that always occur with chronic low back pain of no specific origin:
    lower back pain
    Symptoms that never occur with chronic low back pain of no specific origin:
    thigh numbness, buttocks numbness, lower back pain from an injury
    Urgency:
    Primary care doctor

    Lower Back Pain Checker

    Take a quiz to find out why you’re having lower back pain.

    Take Quiz
  6. 6.Fibromyalgia

    Fibromyalgia is a disorder that causes widespread pain, tenderness, and fatigue.

    Fibromyalgia is generally a lifelong condition

    Rarity:
    Common
    Top Symptoms:
    fatigue, arthralgias or myalgias, anxiety, depressed mood, headache
    Symptoms that always occur with fibromyalgia:
    arthralgias or myalgias
    Urgency:
    Primary care doctor
  7. 7.Lower Back Arthritis

    Osteoarthritis, most often simply called arthritis, is a disease of cartilage. In joints, where bones touch and move against one another, cartilage helps provide lubrication for smooth movement, and acts as a shock absorber. Cartilage is also present in between vertebrae, which are the bones comprising the spine. Osteoarthritis of the spine, also known as degenerative joint disease, happens when the cartilage between vertebrae dries out and shrinks. The vertebrae are thus not as able to move smoothly against one another. The ability to walk and perform normal daily activities can be impaired due to inflammation and pain in the lower back.

    Currently, there is no widely accepted cure for osteoarthritis, and medical care is centered on management of symptoms. General pain killers are likely to reduce pain symptoms in the short term (hours up to a day). Corticosteroid injections can reduce pain symptoms for months.

    Rarity:
    Common
    Top Symptoms:
    lower back pain, spontaneous back pain, back pain that gets worse when straightening it, back pain from overuse
    Urgency:
    Primary care doctor
  8. 8.Spinal Stenosis

    The spine, or backbone, protects the spinal cord and allows people to stand and bend. Spinal stenosis causes narrowing in the spine. The narrowing puts pressure on nerves and the spinal cord and can cause pain.

    Indefinite

    Rarity:
    Common
    Top Symptoms:
    lower back pain, back pain that shoots down the leg, back pain that shoots to the butt, difficulty walking, thigh pain
    Urgency:
    Primary care doctor
  9. 9.Greater Trochanteric Pain Syndrome

    Greater trochanteric pain syndrome is a common cause of hip pain caused by damage to the tendons and/or bursa (fluid-filled sac near a joint) at the outside point of the hip known as the greater trochanter.

    Weeks to years

    Rarity:
    Uncommon
    Top Symptoms:
    lower back pain, pain in the outside of the hip, moderate hip pain, groin pain, limping
    Symptoms that always occur with greater trochanteric pain syndrome:
    pain in the outside of the hip
    Urgency:
    Primary care doctor
  10. 10.Kidney Stone

    A kidney stone is a solid piece of material that forms in the kidney from substances in the urine. Most kidney stones pass out of the body without help from a doctor. But sometimes a stone will not go away. It may get stuck in the urinary tract, block the flow of urine and cause great pain.

    The prognosis for a kidney stone is good, as it is not a chronic condition. Once the stone has passed, the pain will go away. However, if you have had a kidney stone, you have about a 1 in 2 chance of getting another one in five to seven years. This can be prevented by: 1. Drinking more than 2 liters (2.11 quarts) of water a day. 2. Eating a healthy diet with foods rich in calcium such as milk and other dairy products, peas and beans, leafy green vegetables, nuts, and bony fish like sardines and salmon. 3. Avoiding use of lots of salt in cooking. 4. Eating more vegetables, as they help make urine less acidic.

    Rarity:
    Uncommon
    Top Symptoms:
    abdominal or flank pain, nausea, abdominal pain that comes and goes, diarrhea, pelvis pain
    Symptoms that always occur with kidney stone:
    abdominal or flank pain
    Urgency:
    Hospital emergency room

FAQs About Lower Back Pain

Here are some frequently asked questions about lower back pain.

Why does my lower back hurt so much all of a sudden?

Acute (sudden) lower back pain can have many causes. Most often, lower back pain is not caused by anything dangerous or even identifiable. Most commonly acute back pain is due to muscle spasm or strain. However, lower back pain can also be caused by compression of the spinal cord from herniation of an intervertebral disk. Cancer can also cause back pain, but is not frequently sudden. Infections may also cause back pain, but are both less common and also associated with infection. Other causes of back pain that are less serious include compression fractures, usually in older individuals or individuals with poor or insufficient diets, impingement of a nerve root (as opposed to the entire spinal cord), and spinal stenosis or narrowing of the spinal canal which may happen with age-related changes of the spinal cord.

How should I sleep with lower back pain?

This depends on the cause of back pain. If back pain is muscular, sleeping in such a way as to take strain off the muscles would be useful. This can mean sleeping with more or less back support, on one's stomach, or on one's back. It is best to try a different positions. If you are unable to get comfortable and back pain persists for a long period of time (e.g. consistently for over two weeks), then it may be necessary to seek medical evaluation.

Can posture affect lower back pain?

Yes, posture can cause or even worsen lower back pain. Ideal posture involves shoulders back and diaphragm lifted. If you sit at a desk with your shoulders forward this can cause lower back pain. This is commonly referred to a hunched position and places strain on the muscles of your lower back. Correct ergonomics (our interactions with things such as chairs and desks) is important for those who sit for many hours at work or home, especially when using a computer).

Is it okay to walk with lower back pain?

Yes, for the most common types of lower back pain it is alright to walk and may even reduce the pain. However, if you are experiencing any change in sensation or numbness below the waist and especially if you are experiencing weakness, it is best to seek immediate medical evaluation.

Is lower back pain a sign of a kidney problem?

Yes, lower back pain can be a sign of an infection of the kidney, called pyelonephritis, in which bacteria reach and infect the kidney. This is frequently limited to one side especially the flank or side of the back, but can, in rare cases, affect both kidneys on either side. This is, again, less common than more frequent causes of lower back pain including muscle spasm or strain.

Questions Your Doctor May Ask About Lower Back Pain

  • Q.What is your body mass?
  • Q.Does your back pain radiate anywhere?
  • Q.Were you lifting weights or straining yourself right before your symptoms started?
  • Q.Any fever today or during the last week?

If you've answered yes to one or more of these questions, try our lower back pain symptom checker to find out more.

Take Quiz

Lower Back Pain Symptom Checker Statistics

  • People who have experienced lower back pain have also experienced:

    • 5% Abdominal Pain (Stomach Ache)
    • 4% Hip Pain
    • 4% Bloody Vaginal Discharge
  • People who have experienced lower back pain had symptoms persist for:

    • 29% Less Than a Week
    • 29% Over a Month
    • 22% Less Than a Day
  • People who have experienced lower back pain were most often matched with:

    • 63% Traumatic Vertebral Fracture
    • 27% Herniated (Slipped) Disk in the Lower Back
    • 9% Low Back Strain
  • Source: Aggregated and anonymized results from visits to the Buoy AI health assistant (check it out by clicking on “Take Quiz”).

A.I. Health Assistant

Take a quiz to find out why you’re having lower back pain

Take Quiz