Back pain when bending over: what to know

While low back pain is a widespread symptom, some people only experience it when bending over. A bent position increases stress on the lower back. The resulting pain can reveal unrecognized injuries or other underlying medical problems. In this article, learn about the causes and treatments of low back pain when bending over, as well as some tips for prevention.

Causes of low back pain when bending over

Some causes of low back pain when bending include:

Lumbar stress

Lower back strain is a common cause of back pain when bending over. The position can put significant pressure on the lower back, causing the muscles and ligaments to overstretch.A tension in the area can also cause inflammation, which can lead to muscle spasms.

Lower back stiffness, muscle spasms, difficulty maintaining an upright posture, and limited range of motion can indicate low back strain.
Deals Resting your back for 1 to 3 days can help reduce muscle pain, as can taking non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). Some over-the-counter (OTC) options include ibuprofen and naproxen.

Massage, the application of ice and heat, and the use of electrical muscle stimulation therapies can also help. Physical therapy exercises can strengthen your back and help prevent further injury.
Herniated disc

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The vertebrae in the back are cushioned by discs that act as shock absorbers and help stabilize the lower back. A herniated disc is one that slips out of place and puts extra pressure on the surrounding nerves. Usually this is due to age-related changes that cause the discs to degenerate, making it easier to move.
Other symptoms A herniated disc can lead to leg weakness and numbness in the legs and lower back.

In rare cases, a person with these symptoms loses control of their bowel or bladder functions. If this occurs, seek treatment immediately, as incontinence may be the result of a serious underlying condition.

Resting your back and taking NSAIDs usually helps. Some people find relief from steroid injections into the space around the nerve, as they can relieve inflammation. If the symptoms are severe, the doctor may recommend surgical intervention.


Sciatica is a condition that can result from a herniated disc. If the disc presses on the sciatic nerve in the lower spine, it can cause sensations of pressure, burning, or severe pain that travel from the lower back down one or both legs.
Other symptoms

Sciatica can also limit the range of motion in one or both legs. If a person has sciatica-like symptoms and loses control of their bowel or bladder, they should seek medical attention immediately.

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A person may require surgery to remove the part of the disc that is pressing on the nerve, although this is rare. The American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons estimates that sciatica clears up without surgery in 80-90% of people who have the condition. Nonsurgical treatments may include ice and heat, movement, and gentle stretching exercises to relieve inflammation.


A person with spondylolysis may find it helpful to wear a back brace.
Spondylolysis is a stress fracture in a spinal vertebra that often occurs in younger athletes, such as those who play soccer or do gymnastics.

A person with spondylolysis may have difficulty maintaining a straight, upright posture, and the medical term for this is spondylolisthesis.

A person may also experience pain in the buttocks and thighs, as well as pain that worsens with activity. Resting your back and taking NSAIDs can usually help with low-grade stress fractures. Some people also benefit from physical therapy and a brace to support their back during physical activity.

If the injury is causing severe symptoms, your doctor may recommend surgery. This could involve spinal fusion, a procedure that secures the spine.

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Ankylosing spondylitis

Ankylosing spondylitis is a chronic inflammatory condition that affects the spine, particularly the joints near the pelvis and hips. It can cause pain, stiffness, and other forms of discomfort when a person bends over.

Over time, ankylosing spondylitis can cause inflammatory changes that lead to the fusion of the bones of the spinal joints. Also, when severe, ankylosing spondylitis can cause changes in a person’s posture, giving them a hunched-over appearance.

A person with this condition may also experience pain when you press on their lower back and the area over the pelvic bones. Treatment may initially involve taking NSAIDs. If symptoms worsen, a doctor may prescribe other medications, such as tumor necrosis factor blockers, which also help reduce inflammation. Examples include adalimumab (Humira) and etanercept (Enbrel). Also, some people find that physical therapy helps improve their flexibility.
When to see a doctor

A person should seek immediate medical attention if they are unable to move any muscles or joints in their lower extremities or if they lose control of their bowels or bladder. Any of these situations is a medical emergency that requires prompt treatment to prevent further nerve damage.

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