Feeling a stab in the back?

GEHA | July 9, 2020

everyday health health and wellness well-being
If you decide to see a doctor for lower back pain, keep in mind that imaging tests are generally not recommended as an early diagnostic tool.

Back pain is one of the most common reasons people visit the doctor or miss work, and it’s a leading cause of disability. Most people have back pain at least once in their lives.

If you’re working from home – likely while perched all day on a non-ergonomic dining room chair – sitting may hurt your lower back.

Risk factors

Lower back pain is an equal opportunity condition, affecting anyone. Some factors may increase your risk, including:

  • Age

    Most people will first feel occasional back pain between the ages of 30 through 50. The older you get, the more common your back pain.

  • Anxiety and depression

    Stress can affect your body in many ways, including causing muscle tension.

  • Fitness

    Couch potatoes and weekend warriors are much more likely to develop back pain. Making moderate physical exercise a daily habit can help protect your back.

  • Job

    Having a job that requires heavy lifting, pushing or pulling can lead to injury and back pain. As mentioned, working at a desk can also hurt your back.

  • Weight
    Being overweight or obese puts additional stress on your back, often causing pain.

Signs, symptoms and when to see a doctor

You may feel an ache or a shooting or stabbing pain in the area. The pain might radiate down your leg or get worse when you bend, lift, stand or walk.

Most back pain gradually improves with some TLC, usually within a few weeks.

Consult a physician if your back pain:

  • Is severe and doesn’t improve with rest
  • Spreads down one or both legs, especially if it extends below your knee
  • Causes weakness, numbness or tingling
  • Is accompanied by unexplained weight loss

If you decide to see a doctor, keep in mind that imaging tests – such as X-rays, ultrasounds, CT or MRI scans – are not recommended in most cases.

Immediately seek care if your lower back pain:

  • Causes new bowel or bladder problems
  • Is accompanied by a fever
  • Follows a fall, blow to your back or other injury

Sources:
“Low Back Pain Fact Sheet.” Nih.gov, National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, 27 April, 2020.
“Back pain.” Mayo.org, Mayo Clinic, 04 August, 2018.