How to Find the Cause of Lower Back Pain

Finding the cause of lower back pain and ways to treat it is high on the to-do list for many people these days. And, even if you don’t have low back pain right now, an estimated 70% of adults living in industrialized nations will experience it at some point. Adults in developing countries are starting to experience lower back pain, making this a global issue. The cost to the United States of lower back pain is at least 100 billion per year. Medication, surgery, acupuncture, and self-treatment programs are all used by people to address their low back pain. 

What is Low Back Pain?

If you’re wondering how to find the cause of lower back pain, you likely want to know what it is and how to treat it. Lower back pain is discomfort and pain in the lumbosacral region that may include radiating leg pain. The lumbosacral region consists of the triangular bone called the sacrum, the spine’s base. This could consist of both muscular pain and pain in the spinal column. Here are some types of low back pain:

  1. Pulled muscle or strain
  2. Herniated disk
  3. Bulging disk
  4. Sciatica
  5. Other health conditions

While most back pain is simply that, sometimes back pain can be an indication of an underlying health concern. You should see your doctor about your lower back pain when:

  1. It’s been going on for more than six weeks.
  2. It’s getting worse, or it isn’t improving.
  3. You have one of the following “red flags”: 
    • Over the age of 55
    • Under the age of 20
    • Light tapping is painful
    • Fever/malaise
    • Weight loss
    • Slow urination or incontinence
    • Numbness in your groin
    • Dragging toe
    • Numbness, weakness, or tingling in both legs

We’ll go over treatments for lower back pain in the next section. 

How to Treat Low Back Pain

Here are some ways to treat low back pain. Many people find combining techniques to be helpful. 

1. R.I.C.E.

Use the gold standard injury treatment program RICE for back injuries or sprains. Rest, ice, compression, and elevate. Fire up your favorite streaming service and pack your schedule with naps. Rest is essential for your body to heal. Try to have good posture while you’re resting. Next is ice. Use an ice pack or bag of vegetables wrapped in a thin but absorbent towel and apply to the area of pain for 15-20 minutes. Reapply after 2-3 hours. Do this for the first day or two after your injury. Use compression wraps according to directions and try to elevate your low back.

2. Pain medication

Many people treat their lower back pain with over-the-counter medications like Tylenol or Motrin. Be sure to follow the packaging instructions.

3. Topical analgesics

Whether you combine topicals with pain medications or use them on their own, topical analgesics (pain relievers) can provide direct relief to the painful area. There are a variety of topical analgesics, some of which contain pain relievers like NSAIDs. Others use forms of capsaicin, which heats the area, or cooling substances like menthol. Creams made from soothing herbs like arnica are also popular. Arnica comes in an herbal form or as a homeopathic; many people swear by homeopathic arnica for soreness and bruising. 

4. Massage

Massage can be an effective form of treatment and pain relief for low back pain. Massage can help answer the question “how to find the cause of low back pain?” but identifying areas of tension or weakness, for example, the psoas muscle, is often a culprit in low back pain. Massage increases circulation, lubricates the joints, and helps relax tight muscles. Depending on the massage therapist, they may even help stretch out your low back.

5. Epsom Salt Baths

Take a page from the bodybuilder’s handbook and try a warm Epsom salt bath. Epsom salts are a form of magnesium and may help sore muscles relax. Taking an Epsom salt bath allows your body to absorb magnesium, which relaxes your muscles by countering calcium, the mineral that makes your muscles contract. 

6. Acupuncture

Acupuncture is an ancient medical treatment used in China for thousands of years and uses needles to stimulate or balance the flow of energy in the body. Acupuncture has been extensively studied for its effectiveness in treating lower back pain, and many studies have found it to be not only safe but useful for instances of low back pain. Acupuncture has been shown to significantly reduce pain and functional improvement for those who have low back pain. 

7. Self-Treatment

BioFunctional Health Solutions offers the interactive self-treatment program, YouMari, which guides users through identifying their problems and a customized self-treatment plan that includes massage, stretching, and exercises. With YouMari, you’ll be given personalized stretches like these stretches for lower back pain.

    • Low Back Twist

Lay flat on your back on a comfortable surface. Keep your feet flat on the floor and your legs together. Bend your knees. Inhale, keep your shoulders on the floor and let your knees fall to one side as you exhale. Stay here and breathe 1, 3, or 5 times. Inhale your knees up to the middle and repeat on the opposite side.

    • Knees to chest

Laying flat on your back, bend your knees, and put your feet on the floor. In the same motion, bring both your knees into your chest, wrapping your hands or arms around the fronts of your knees and pulling them into your chest. Stay in this position for 15-30 seconds or longer. You can roll side to side or up and down your spine if that feels good. 

    • Child’s Pose

Sit on your heels with your knees together on a comfortable surface. If that’s uncomfortable, you can sit on a folded blanket, towel, or yoga block. Add height until you feel comfortable. Slowly bend forward until your head is on the ground or a yoga block/folded towel/pillow. Open your knees wide if that feels good; it’s all therapeutic and about what feels best to your hips, knees, and low back. 

    • Bridge Pose

Lay flat on your back on a firm but comfortable surface. Make sure your neck is relaxed; pad it until your neck is straight if needed. (You don’t want your head tilted forward so a towel may be better than a cushion.) Bend your knees, so your feet are on the floor. Take your feet hip-width apart and move your heels closer to your glutes. Press your feet to the floor and engage your abs and glutes to lift your hips up. Lower back down to the ground and repeat about ten times.

    • One Knee Chest Stretch

Lay flat on your back and extend your legs straight in front of you. Bend one knee. Put your hands on your knee, wrap your arms around your knee, and pull your bent leg into your ribs. Hold for 15-30 seconds. Repeat on the other side and do 2-3 rounds. 

YouMari for Lower Back Pain

YouMari is a state-of-the-art symptom checker and self-treatment program that can help users solve their lower back pain. If you’re wondering how to find the cause of lower back pain, YouMari will assess your pain and design a custom treatment plan of stretching, exercises, and self-massage that will have you feeling better in no time. Sign up for YouMari and receive clinical-level care instantly!