Back pain: One unusual cause of the common condition

Back pain is a frequent cause of complaint. Most back pain is known as “non-specific”, which means there is no obvious cause or “mechanical”, which means the pain is being caused by the joints, bones or soft tissues in and around the spine. The pain can develop suddenly and is normally characterised by a sharp sensation or a dull ache. While painful, it is rarely a cause for further concern.

An infection in your urinary system that’s untreated or goes unnoticed can travel upward in your body, causing pressure in your lower back

Dr Oz

Most back pain is due to poor posture or lifting something awkwardly, but it can also be caused by a urinary tract infection (UTI).

Dr Oz explained: “An infection in your urinary system that’s untreated or goes unnoticed can travel upward in your body to your kidneys, causing inflammation, sharp pain, and pressure in your lower back.”

UTIs are commonly caused by bacteria from faeces entering the urinary tract. The bacteria enters through the tube that carries urine out of the body (urethra).

Women are more prone to UTIs than men as they have a shorter urethra.

This means bacteria are more likely to reach the bladder or kidneys and cause an infection.

A course of antibiotics usually treats UTIs and should ease the lower back pain the process.

According to the NHS, the symptoms normally clear up within five days in adults and two days in children.

“It’s important to finish the whole course of antibiotics, even if you start to feel better,” it said.

There are also a number of things you can yourself to ease a UTI, added the health body. These include:

  • Take paracetamol – you can give children liquid paracetamol
  • Place a hot water bottle on your tummy, back or between your thighs
  • Rest and drink plenty of fluids – this helps your body to flush out the bacteria
  • It may also help to avoid having sex until you feel better.
  • It is also advisable to avoid drinks that might irritate your bladder, said the Mayo Clinic. Coffee, alcohol, and soft drinks tend are common aggravators.

Many people also drink cranberry juice to prevent UTIs.  Research suggests cranberry juice, ingested in either juice or tablet form, may have infection-fighting properties, but the findings are not conclusive, it added.

Back pain can also be caused by pre-existing medical conditions such as:

  • A slipped (prolapsed) disc (a disc of cartilage in the spine pressing on a nerve) – this can cause back pain and numbness, tingling and weakness in other parts of the body
  • Sciatica (irritation of the nerve that runs from the lower back to the feet) – this can cause pain, numbness, tingling and weakness in the lower back, buttocks, legs and feet
  • Ankylosing spondylitis (swelling of the joints in the spine) – this causes pain and stiffness that’s usually worse in the morning and improves with movement
  • Spondylolisthesis (a bone in the spine slipping out of position) – this can cause lower back pain and stiffness, as well as numbness and a tingling sensation

Vary rarely, back pain can signify a more serious underlying health condition. These include:

  • A broken bone in the spine
  • An infection
  • Cauda equina syndrome (where the nerves in the lower back become severely compressed)
  • Cancer

“If you see your GP with back pain, they will look for signs of these,” says the NHS.

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