Baby got back pain
February 25, 2007 2:55 PM   Subscribe

Weird, pinch-y lower back pain. What's causing it and how can I make it go away?

For the past several months I've had this sharp, deep, pinch-y pain in my lower back, on the right-hand side. It's sort of between my hip and the spot above my glute. It's not muscle soreness, as massaging the area gives me no relief. It feels really deep, and it only hurts when I move in certain ways.

It almost never goes away, but some days it's barely noticable, usually when I've had a few days rest from physical activity. Working out seems to make it worse. It's also always only on the right side, never on the left, which makes me wonder if I'm somehow favoring that side when I work out.

I'm a healthy, 135-pound 26-year-old. I eat right (mostly), run a few times a week and take martial arts for about five hours a week. I seem to remember the pain beginning late last summer after a spar in one of my tae kwon do classes. Almost like I wrenched my back or something, as it feels a little bit like a crick in the neck would. Not long after, I sought acupuncture treatment for it, which only made the pain worse!

I have read about sciatica, but I'm not sure that's it, as the pain doesn't really radiate. However, the primary location seems to be the same place as sciatica.

I am going home to the States for three weeks and can consult a doctor there but I'd like a few leads before then.
posted by Brittanie to Health & Fitness (10 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
After blowing my back out at the gym because I was an idiot last year, the doctor advised an MRI (it was less than 300,000 won (I know you're also here in Korea), which is, I think a lot cheaper than it is back in North America). I hadn't had any real back problems in about 20 years, but it turns out I've had some L4-L5 compression since forever, and disk bulging, and degeneration. After a lot of (thankfully, company-paid) therapy, strengthening the muscles, careful exercise and vigilance have been the watchwords since, but I do have the occasional bout of discomfort if I misbehave or sit wrong for a long time (like today), and the sensation is very much as you describe, as a result of the bulging disc pressing on spinal nerves (which, as I understand it, is the root of sciatica pain as well, which I had a bit of in the time after I injured myself).

Just a guess, as these things often are, but it may be something similar. Frequent careful stretching and lower-back strengthening exercises do help.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 4:16 PM on February 25, 2007

I had something similar to this. Some days the pain would be terrible and sometimes it wouldn't hurt at all. I describe it as a pain that comes from the "dimple" right above my right butt cheek. It's really deep and no rest or massage help. Also there was no so much radiating pain as sharp localized pain when I would bend and twist. After bouncing from doctor to doctor (and an expensive MRI to boot) I finally found one who diagnosed me with an SI dysfunction.

I went to the physical therapist, and after a few times I felt fine. They also gave me a set of exercises to do. I have them as a PDF if you are interested.

IANAD or Therapist.
posted by fair_game at 4:27 PM on February 25, 2007

Ask your doctor, (covering my ass), if you can do yoga. For me, doing the dog and cat pose, especially, strengthened the right muscles to keep the parts in place so they don't pinch a nerve.

Don't overdo any exercises. See a physical therapist if you can.

Hormones also seem to affect the joints right there. Just thought I'd mention that, not sure how knowing that will help... maybe googling hormone, hips, pinching, pain will lead to something?
posted by cda at 4:44 PM on February 25, 2007

You definitely should see a pro, because lower-back pinching is nothing to mess around with. I would recommend that you consider a good chiropractor - your issue is exactly their line of business.

The only downside is that the business seem to attract a higher incidence quacks that traditional medicine. So take your time and ask around to make sure you find a good one. I would look for someone that is low impact and is willing to teach you the exercises you need not to have to go back.
posted by rtimmel at 8:26 PM on February 25, 2007

Sounds like a mild case of sciatica. There's nothing much that you can do about it (other than get it checked out), but ice and ibuprofen (the two I's for most pain) mostly help.

And posture. Keep a good posture.
posted by unixrat at 10:38 PM on February 25, 2007

Ok, I'm just going to tell you my experience. Take it FWIW.

I was in a car accident in 1989. I got whiplash & had about 9 months of physical therapy. Five years later, my back suddenly started really hurting and went out on me. From that point on, about once a year it would get really pinchy & painful for about a week. By 1998 I was taking yoga 5x a week and was in amazing shape, but one day my back started pinching and that time it didn't get better right away. It just hurt worse & worse. And I had HORRIBLE sciatica going down the sides of my legs. It became excruciating.

I decided to get heavier into yoga because I figured it would help my body... and I added some physical therapy & massage. I had also been wanting to try taking pilates, and figured that if I talked to my family doctor maybe this back problem would be a chance for me to get insurance to pay for it. They said I had to get an MRI first. So I did.

I was completely taken aback when the doctor then told me there's a congenital weakness in my spine & that I had an 12mm ruptured disk in my L5 S1 (NOT small). I was sent immediately to a neurosurgeon who wanted to fuse my spine. I refused to have that done... I did some research & found that surgery can't repair my injury & won't necessarily make the pain go away. Fusing a spine is NASTY. So I got heavy into pilates and found other ways to handle it by changing my lifestyle. I'm thankful I did that. It took years of work, but this year is the first year since then that I haven't been in pain. My injury is totally in remission now.

The reason I'm telling you this is because I had NO idea my injury was serious. It was the last thing on my mind. I thought it was just a little twinge of pain that would go away in a week. Had I not gotten that MRI, I know I would've kept going to yoga and would've made my injury much worse because I was hyperextending it. I was also treating my back with heat which wasn't good for it because it was inflamed. Cold is always best to help an inflamed area.

Sooooo... trust your instincts but if the pain continues & is debilatating, don't screw around. Agree to an MRI and then take it from there. Use your own judgment for what kind of treatment feels right to you (no spine fusing!). I totally recommend finding a pilates studio that specializes in physical therapy. I was nearly bedridden when I started it, and now I'm thrilled to be able to say that I'm pain-free. It's amazing for back injuries.

Good luck with everything. Take care of yourself.

posted by miss lynnster at 10:54 PM on February 25, 2007

I agree with everyone that says to see your doctor.

I have a very similar pain, well HAD a very similar pain. Do you happen to know if you have scoliosis, the curvature of the spine?

I have it and was diagnosed with it in 6th grade and there were never any problems with it really, just general lower back pain. Then one day when I was about 18 or 19 I started to get this kind of sharp pain in the lower of back off to the right side, kind of where my kidneys are. It wouldn't happen every day, and usually I only felt it if I moved in a certain way. Then it got a little worse and I went to the doctors because I thought maybe there was something wrong with an organ or something.

I had xrays and they didn't really find anything and the doctor came to the conclusion that I had muscle spasms. Now, spasms seems like a weird word because it doesn't actually spasm. What had happened is that the curvature of my spine had put pressure on those muscles and that they were cramping up in a painful way.

Yoga cleared the problem right up :)
posted by AnnaMolly at 6:15 AM on February 26, 2007

For immediate, and temporary, relief from the pain try the following:

Lie on your back and put your legs over a chair. Your thighs should be perpendicular to the ground. Your calves should be resting on the chair with your knees bent to 90 degrees.

I had something similar when I was your age. As for what is causing it, if it is sciatica, I was told not to carry anything heavy, stop sleeping on a futon, stop driving my car, and to sit down when putting on my pants. I made some minor lifestyle changes (quit waiting tables, got rid of my coupe, bought a real bed) and have had only the occaissional twinges since. Good luck and take care of your back.
posted by SMELLSLIKEFUN at 10:56 AM on February 26, 2007

SMELLSLIKEFUN is right, that's a good exercise. Also try lying down with a pillow either under your legs or between your knees if you're on your side.

Don't ignore it though. Back injuries are serious things.
posted by miss lynnster at 12:19 PM on February 26, 2007

Hi Brittanie. You haven't got sciatica or some evil disc problem, what you feel is an irritation from a dysfunctional erector spinae muscle on the right side. It happens as the result or a trauma or overloading and causes the muscles to contract as a way of giving you support at that moment. If the muscle is not then unlocked again it sets like this in a contracted state and starts to pull on the attachment point where you feel it. Some people feel it in the shoulder and upper back.

If you are weak in the lower back area or the muscle continues to deteriorate due to restricted circulation, sciatica may come later.

To get rid of it you can use a rubber or tennis ball and lying on your back put the ball under you and use it to sandwhich the erector spinae muscle (a group of muscles that run from your waist to your neck along side your spine), against the spine or ribs beneath it.

By doing incremental compressions through the muscle along its entire length an inch or so apart you will help stimulate the circulation and in time kick start the muscles back to a strong functional condition.

Chiropractors won't work because they will worry too much about the sore joint instead of the erector spinae muscle and your Doctor won't help because he will just want to prescribe you drugs.

For more comprehensive info you can get my free e book, The Bad Back Book from
posted by myotherapist at 2:11 AM on February 28, 2007 [1 favorite]

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