Back Pain and Lower Back Pain

Back pain can have many causes, and many times back pain will resolve itself in two to four weeks with rest, ice and heat. Roughly 80 percent of Americans will experience back pain at some point in their lives, making back pain one of the most common reasons people visit doctors or miss work.

Animation: Where Lower Back Pain Begins

How Common is Back Pain?

While it is estimated that four out of five people will experience back or lower back pain at some point in their lives, back pain that lasts longer than a few weeks is not normal.

Back Pain Symptoms

Back pain symptoms may include feelings of muscle ache, stabbing or shooting pain, stiff or limited flexibility in the back or lower back, inability to stand with proper posture and radiating pain down one or both legs.

Where is my back pain coming from?

Muscle Strains

Did you know that muscle-related pain is one of the most common reasons for overall back pain? It's true. Muscle-related back pain can be caused by improper lifting techniques, overuse, poor posture or a sudden awkward movement or fall.

Bulging or Herniated Discs

Spinal discs are soft cushions between vertebra. Sometimes, the soft jellylike substance inside the disc can bulge out of place or rupture, putting pressure on the surrounding nerves causing back pain. Disc related pain can be caused by an injury. Interestingly, some people who have bulging or herniated discs will never experience any back pain.

Sciatica

Sciatica refers to back pain that stems from the sciatic nerve, a large nerve extending from the lower back down the back of each leg. Sciatica is not a disorder, but a symptom of another underlying problem, such as a spinal stenosis, a pinched/irritated nerve in the lower back or a herniated disc.

Other Painful Conditions

If you have spinal stenosis, degenerative disc disease, scoliosis, compression fractures, arthritis or osteoporosis you may also experience bone and joint pain in the back. These conditions can be treated with conservative, minimally invasive procedures by our back pain and lower back pain doctors.

Risk Factors for Back Pain

There are a few factors that can increase your risk of developing back or lower back pain, such as: smoking, obesity, age, physical labor, sedentary work and depression.

Preparing for Your Appointment with APM Back Pain and Lower Back Pain Doctors

Before you meet with your back pain relief doctor, take note of some important facts.

  • Is your back pain the result of an injury?
  • What movements increase or decrease your back pain?
  • What are the symptoms you have been feeling?
  • How long have you had this back pain?
  • What does your back pain feel like? Dull, aching, stabbing or shooting?
  • What type of work do you do?
  • What treatments or medications have you already tried to resolve your back pain?

Diagnosis Testing

To help determine the cause of your back pain, your provider may ask you a lot of questions and ask for some diagnostic testing. Learn more about what to expect when you visit an APM back pain and lower back pain relief doctor.

Some common diagnostic imaging includes:

X-ray – An X-ray shows the alignment of the bones in your spine and whether you have any broken or arthritic bones that may be causing pain. Always bring your X-ray images with you to a doctor's appointment to help your doctor understand your full history.

Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) or computerized tomography (CT) scans – These tests show images of bone, muscle, tissue, nerves, blood vessels, tendons and ligaments. These tests can show disc herniation, muscle tears, ligament problems and can help your doctor understand your back pain.

Nerve Studies – Electromyography (EMG) is a test used to study nerve and muscle function. There are two parts to EMG testing: a nerve conduction study and a needle exam for muscle testing. The nerve conduction study involves stimulating the nerves at different points with small electric stimulation so their function can be measured. The needle exam involves inserting very fine needles into several muscles. These needles pick up both normal and abnormal electrical signals given off by a muscle.

The EMG can provide information about the extent of nerve and/or muscle injury and can give some indication as to whether the damage is reversible. An EMG may be performed when the patient has unexplained muscle weakness to distinguish if the problem is in the muscle or if it due to nerve disorders. The EMG can detect abnormal electrical activity of muscles and nerves that can occur in many diseases and conditions, including muscular dystrophy, muscle inflammation, pinched nerves, damage to nerves in the arms and legs (peripheral nerve damage), multiple sclerosis and carpal tunnel syndrome.

Back Pain Treatment Options:

There are a number of treatment options that your back pain doctor can perform to help reduce back pain, which include:

At Advanced Pain Management, our back pain and lower back pain doctors value the importance of an interdisciplinary approach. For those back pain treatments not offered by APM, we are able to refer you to other back pain doctors. 

Find upper or lower back pain doctors in Madison, Green Bay, Milwaukee or a Wisconsin location near you.

What Can I do to Help Back Pain?

"6 Stretches to Help Back Pain" includes tips and tricks you can use at home and at work to help you reduce your back pain. Take a look or download your own copy now!

6 Stretches to Help Back Pain eBook

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  • Knee to Chest

    Use this stretch to align pelvis and stretch lower back and rear end muscles. Lie flat on your back with toes pointed to the sky. Slowly bend your right knee and pull your leg up to you chest. Wrap your arms around your thigh, knee or shin, and gently pull the knee towards your chest. Hold for 20 seconds and slowly extend the leg to starting position. Repeat three times each leg.

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    Knee to Chest
  • Lying Knee Twist

    Use this movement to stretch the paraspinal muscles and strengthen the abdominal muscles. Lie on your back with your legs extended straight out. Bend the right knee up and cross it over the left side of your body. Hold in a position that allows you to feel a gentle stretch through the back and buttocks muscles for 20 seconds. Tighten your core muscles and rotate back to center. Repeat three times on each side.

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    Lying Knee Twist
  • Yoga Cat/Cow

    Start this more by kneeling on all fours with your hands beneath your shoulders and your knees directly below your hips. Exhale and gently arch your spine. Inhale, tighten your core muscles and round your back, like a cat. Move slowly between movements and hold in each position for 5-10 seconds. Repeat 10 times.

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    Yoga Cat/Cow
  • Piriformis Seated Stretch

    This stretch is designed to help lengthen the piriformis muscle over time. This muscle is often the source of sciatica, or radiating leg pain. Sitting with a straight back, cross your left leg over your right leg placing your foot next to your thigh and tuck your right leg in towards your buttocks. Place your right arm on your leg as pictured and slowly ease into a stretch. Be sure to keep your back straight and chest lifted. Hold for 20 seconds and alternative sides, three times.

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    Piriformis Seated Stretch
  • Cobra Stretch

    This movement is helpful to stretch tight abdominal muscles and the lower back. Start by lying on your stomach with your legs extended and with palms planted on either side of your head with your forearms and elbows flat on the ground. Slowly, push your body upwards, so your weight is resting on your forearms. Be sure to keep your hips on the ground. Once you reach a comfortable position that gently stretches your abdominal muscles and lower back, hold for 10 seconds. Slowly return to starting position and repeat five times. If you have more flexibility in your lower back, try straightening your arms.

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    Cobra Stretch
  • Restful Pose

    A common pose in yoga, the restful child’s pose can help you relax your body. Position yourself on the floor on hands and knees with your knees just wider than hip distance apart. Turn your toes in to touch and push your hips backwards bending your knees. Once you reach a comfortable seated position, extend your arms forward fully and allow your head to fall forward into a relaxation position. Hold this pose for 20 seconds and slowly return to starting position. Repeat three times. For modification if you have shoulder pain, place your arms on either side of your body, extending towards your feet.

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    Restful Pose
  • For More Information

    If you would like more information about Advanced Pain Management please call 888-901-PAIN (7246) or contact us directly using our “Contact Us” online form.

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  • DISCLAIMER:

    This material is presented for informational and educational purposes only. This information does not constitute medical advice and is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice. You should always seek the advice of a physician or other qualified health care provider before beginning any exercise program. If you experience any pain or difficulty with these exercises, stop and consult your health care provider. ADVANCED PAIN MANAGEMENT MAKES NO WARRANTIES, EXPRESS OR IMPLIED, THAT THE INFORMATION CONTAINED IN THESE MATERIALS WILL MEET YOUR NEEDS.

    Advanced Pain Management


Last reviewed July 2013 by APM's Medical Executive Committee.