Lower back pain can be uncomfortable and worrying, but there are lots of potential causes - and many of them are issues that can be easily dealt with.
“If you’re in severe pain which interferes with daily life, please see a doctor as soon as possible – they’ll be able to identify why you have the pain and refer you for the right treatment,” says Dr Samantha Wild, women’s health lead at Bupa Health Clinics.
We asked Dr Wild to explain what lower back pain in women could potentially be a sign of…
Yep, your lower back pain could just be down to your good old monthly visitor – so it’s worth checking your calendar to see where you are in your cycle. “Premenstrual syndrome, or PMS, tends to affect women a few days before their period starts and continues until a couple of days after it starts,” says Dr Wild. “Many women tend to cite lower back pain as a symptom of PMS, as well as stomach cramps, fatigue and bloating.”
“Endometriosis is a condition where the type of tissue that lines the uterus grows outside of the uterus,” explains Dr Wild. “It tends to grow on the ovaries, fallopian tubes and other tissue surrounding the pelvis. Lower back and pelvic pain are key symptoms.” If you think you might be suffering from endometriosis, it’s best to make an appointment with your GP so they can investigate.
If you’ve got lower back pain and there’s a chance you could be pregnant, it might be time to take a test. “Back pain is really common during pregnancy,” says Dr Wild. However, she points out that it generally doesn't occur until later in the pregnancy, when you're carrying a heavier load and you're more than likely going to know you're expecting. “For most pregnant women, it happens between five to seven months, as you gain weight and your hormones relax your ligaments while your body prepares for birth.”
4. Ovarian cysts
These are fluid-filled sacs that develop on an ovary, and the vast majority are benign. “An ovarian cyst only tends to cause pain if it ruptures, or if it’s so large that it blocks blood supply to the ovaries,” says Dr Wild. “If this is the case, lower back pain tends to be a symptom, along with pelvic pain, irregular and heavy periods and the frequent need to urinate.” Your GP will be able to advise you on next steps if you’re worried you have an ovarian cyst.
5. Muscle strain
If your lower back pain flares up after a vigorous workout, or you first noticed it after an injury, you might have strained a muscle. “Muscle strain is one of the most common causes of lower back pain,” explains Dr Wild. “It often occurs due to repeated heavy lifting, bending or twisting awkwardly, a sudden awkward movement or over-stretching the muscle.” Many strains can heal by themselves, but if it’s taking a long time, head to your GP, who may be able to refer you to a physiotherapist.
6. Kidney infections
“A common symptom of kidney infections is pain in the lower back,” says Dr Wild. “This tends to come on suddenly and is accompanied by feeling feverish, shivery or sick. If this happens, speak to your GP, who will be able to run tests and treat you.”
7. Bone issues
There are several bone issues that can cause lower back pain. “These include a slipped disc, spondylolisthesis – where one of the bones in your spine slips out of position – and ankylosing spondylitis, a long-term condition in which the spine and other areas of the body become inflamed,” says Dr Wild. Your GP will be able to help if you suspect a bone issue could be at play.
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