Read below about severe back pain, including causes and common questions. Or get a personalized analysis of your severe 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.

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A.I. Health Assistant Causes for Severe Back Pain

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

  1. 1.Sciatica

    The sciatic nerve is the largest nerve of the human body, and it runs through the buttock, down the thigh and into the calf, sending information to the muscles in the back of the thigh and leg, as well as the surrounding skin. The sciatic nerve itself is supplied by nerves coming from the spine in the lower back. Sometimes, one of the disks separating the vertebrae (bones of the spine) may bulge out a little bit, putting pressure on one of these nerve roots, causing sciatica, or shooting pain down the sciatic nerve.

    Problem will resolve itself within several weeks in 80-90% of cases.

    Rarity:
    Common
    Top Symptoms:
    back pain, back pain that shoots down the leg, numbness in one foot, pain in one leg, numbness in one thigh
    Symptoms that always occur with sciatica:
    back pain that shoots down the leg
    Urgency:
    Self-treatment
  2. 2.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
  3. 3.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
  4. 4.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
  5. 5.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

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  6. 6.Spondylolysis

    Spondylolysis is a defect in the connection between vertebrae, or the bones of the spine. Over time, small stress fractures can weaken the bones enough to cause separation of the joints. The most common symptom of this condition is low back pain, which may feel like a muscle strain.

    In most cases rest and early treatment is successful in relieving pain and swelling within weeks to a few months.

    Rarity:
    Rare
    Top Symptoms:
    lower back pain, back pain from overuse, back pain that gets worse when straightening it, lower back pain from an injury
    Symptoms that always occur with spondylolysis:
    lower back pain
    Symptoms that never occur with spondylolysis:
    back pain that shoots down the leg, back pain that shoots to the butt
    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.Lower Back (Sacral Vertebral) Fracture

    A sacral stress fracture is a small break in the sacrum. The sacrum is a large triangular bone at base of the spine. The sacrum connects to the pelvis.

    Variable depending on severity

    Rarity:
    Rare
    Top Symptoms:
    lower back pain, back pain that shoots to the butt, back pain that shoots down the leg, severe back pain, lower back pain from an injury
    Symptoms that always occur with lower back (sacral vertebral) fracture:
    lower back pain from an injury
    Urgency:
    Primary care doctor
  10. 10.Kidney Infection (Pyelonephritis)

    Pyelonephritis is the medical term for a kidney infection. This can arise as a result of a bladder infection that travels upstream. A kidney infection is usually bacterial in nature, and can cause pain on the side of the stomach, high fever, nausea, and blood in the urine.

    Course of antibiotics for 7-14 days, but symptoms should begin to improve after 48 hours.

    Rarity:
    Uncommon
    Top Symptoms:
    abdominal pain (stomach ache), nausea, pelvis pain, back pain, vomiting
    Symptoms that never occur with kidney infection (pyelonephritis):
    mid back pain from an injury
    Urgency:
    Hospital emergency room

Questions Your Doctor May Ask About Severe Back Pain

  • Q.What is your body mass?
  • Q.Does your back pain radiate anywhere?
  • Q.How would you describe the cause of your lower back pain?
  • Q.Any fever today or during the last week?

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

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Severe Back Pain Symptom Checker Statistics

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

    • 3% Back Pain
    • 2% Lower Back Pain
    • 2% Fatigue
  • People who have experienced severe back pain had symptoms persist for:

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

    • 60% Iliolumbar Syndrome
    • 20% Sciatica
    • 20% Low Back Strain
  • Source: Aggregated and anonymized results from visits to the Buoy AI health assistant (check it out by clicking on “Take Quiz”).

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