Why does my lower back hurt?
June 7, 2011 2:19 PM   Subscribe

Why does my lower back hurt and what can I do about it? I took a trip to Asia 2 days ago, and now while laying down my lower back (and hips) is incredibly painful, but other times it doesn't hurt. It feels like it's being pulled apart when I lay down in ANY position. It seemed like the plane trip is somehow what aggravated it.
posted by Patrick Leo to Health & Fitness (10 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
When that happens to me I am often able to fix it by fully stretching my legs muscles.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 2:23 PM on June 7, 2011

It could be a lot of things. It's probably a pulled muscle. Take a painkiller (ibuprofen) for a few days and take it easy. Possibly ice it - you can get these belts that hold an ice pack in your lower back at most drug stores. (the link is just to illustrate what I mean - it doesn't matter what brand you get)

But it could be a ruptured disc or a lot of other very bad things. If it's not somewhat better in another couple days, go see a doctor.
posted by GuyZero at 2:23 PM on June 7, 2011 [1 favorite]

Oh yeah - as Tell Me No Lies says, often when my hamstrings are tight it aggravates my lower back. Stretch your hams.
posted by GuyZero at 2:24 PM on June 7, 2011

I don't know why your back hurts, but something that may help is using a sock bagel to relieve your lower back muscles. It feels great for the type of pain you describe (which I tend to get a lot).

I describe the sock bagel in a previous comment here.
posted by phunniemee at 2:25 PM on June 7, 2011

You may also be suffering from a (mild) herniated disk developed after sitting in a cramped airplane seat for 10 hours.

This happens to me now when I travel from Vancouver to Japan. It also happened more severely to my wife.
posted by KokuRyu at 3:17 PM on June 7, 2011

You're describing the exact pain I feel when my occasional kidney stone works its way down the ureter from my kidney to my bladder.
posted by PSB at 3:19 PM on June 7, 2011

Best answer: I experienced the same exact problem after an airplane flight almost a year ago to date. Many of the suggestions here so far are very reasonable possibilities.

In my case, primary care doctor (and chiropractor) explored them all -- herniated disc, kidney stones, etc. -- and all proved negative. He concluded it had to be a (bad) "muscle strain".

Back muscles are tricky things, and once injured, it can be a very prolonged process for them to fully heal. Despite not having a "worse" problem, I can't understate how painful and miserable the experience was.

Hopefully this doesn't happen to you, but all told it took two months before I started to heal.

I would very much echo the advice about stretching your legs. As my back began to feel less horrible, leg stretches provided noticeable improvements. It may not seem obvious because the pain was nowhere near my legs, but you know, one part is attached to another.

A year later, my back is about 98% better. Still more prone to soreness then before the strain, but by and large my daily movement is fine and vigorous exercise totally doable (and helpful at keeping muscles loose!).

Just wanted to basically say, even "just" a bad muscle strain can indeed happen from a long cramped flight, feel absolutely terrible, and last much longer than you'd like. Treat it right, stretch and move when you can. Movement can be painful but immobility will make the problem much worse and the strained muscle more prone to reinjury.
posted by thebordella at 3:50 PM on June 7, 2011

Not sure what it is, but the most common back injury bar none is a bulging disc and in my experience the best way to treat a bulging disc or a herniated disc is to follow the simple and effective exercises out of the well known and well regarded book, Treat Your Own Back.
posted by mizrachi at 3:53 PM on June 7, 2011

It might be sciatica. Take a look at the drawing on this Wikipedia article. Does it hurt right along that nerve? If that's it, ask your doctor if Skelaxin is right for you! (No kidding, it totally worked for me, ending the discomfort but without any side effects like sleepiness.)
posted by Houstonian at 4:34 PM on June 7, 2011

After enduring a lot of pain, I traced my back pain back to tight iliotibial bands; stretching them using a foam roller works wonders for me.
posted by Napoleonic Terrier at 10:28 PM on June 7, 2011

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