Lower Back Pain in Women: Causes, Symptoms, Treatment, and More

lower-back pain-in-women
Editor's Note: This article has been recently updated with latest information and research studies.
 

Lower back region allows you to rotate at the waist, bend, extend, and it basically carries your torso.

This particular area works hard to allow you to move which is why it is prone to injuries that induce pain. Most people experience pain in the lower back at one point or another. Sometimes the pain just comes and goes while in other instances it becomes chronic. Women are particularly prone to pain in lower back and it happens due to a wide array of reasons. To help you manage pain more effectively and understand what’s going on, this post provides* a useful insight into a lower back pain in women. Scroll down to learn more about it.

How Common is Lower Back Pain

Lower back pain is a common problem around the world. A study whose findings were published in the journal Arthritis and Rheumatology revealed that the highest prevalence of low back pain is among women, particularly those who are between 40 and 80 years old. The study analyzed the global prevalence of this problem and discovered that one-month prevalence is between 23.2% and 2.9%.

That being said, the mean overall prevalence on a global level is 31%. If 31% doesn’t seem like a big deal, just take into account how many people live on the planet today and you’ll realize that millions of people deal with pain and discomfort in the low back area.

Evidence shows that eight out of every ten Americans will have back problems at some point in their lives. Lower back pain in females is more common than in males. More precisely, nearly a third of female adults or 30.2% adult women in the US experience low back pain while an only quarter of males or 26.4% deal with the same issue.

Interestingly, nine out of ten patients don’t know the cause of pain, which only emphasizes the importance of learning more about all potential causes and scheduling an appointment to see your doctor rather than hoping it will go away on its own.

What Causes Lower Back Pain in Women?

Lower back pain doesn’t have one specific cause. There is more to this problem than strains and sprains or pregnancy. As mentioned above, some people don’t even know what causes pain in this area, but finding out is crucial in order to improve* the quality of life and alleviate* discomfort you experience. Since lower back pain in women has a wide array of different causes and some of them aren’t even related to your back, we’ll assess the most common factors separately below.

1) Sciatica

Sciatica is one of the most common causes of lower back pain in both men and women. The term sciatica indicates the pain radiating along the path of the sciatic nerve. The nerve branches from the lower back through hips and butt, down your legs. In most cases, sciatica affects one side of the body and it occurs when a part of the nerve is compressed by a herniated disc. The compression causes inflammation, pain, and discomfort in the affected leg.
While everyone can develop sciatica, some risk factors increase* the odds of developing this problem. They include:

  • Age i.e. you’re more likely to develop sciatica as you are getting older
  • Being overweight or obese
  • Diabetes
  • Having a job that requires carrying heavy loads, twisting your back, or driving a motor vehicle for long periods
  • Prolonged sitting

You can recognize sciatica by pain that starts in your lower back area and spreads through the buttock all the way down your leg.

2) Pelvic inflammatory disease (PID)

Pelvic inflammatory disease is an infection of the reproductive organs in women. According to the US Department of Health and Human Services, PID is a common problem and it affects about 5% women in the US. In 2013, about 88,000 women ages between 15 and 44 were diagnosed with this condition.

PID is caused by several types of bacteria, including the same bacteria that cause sexually transmitted infections like Chlamydia and gonorrhea. Basically, bacteria enter the vagina and cause infection which, then, travels to the pelvic organs.

Even though the risk of PID enhances* if a woman has already had gonorrhea and Chlamydia, it can also occur in women even without sexually transmitted infections. Risk factors for this condition include:

  • Douching
  • Having sex and being younger than 25
  • Having sexual intercourse with more than one person
  • Having sexual intercourse without a condom
  • History of pelvic inflammatory disease
  • Trying to prevent pregnancy with intrauterine device

The condition is indicated by a number of different symptoms including:

  • Lower back pain
  • Pain in lower abdomen
  • Painful sex
  • Tiredness
  • Foul-smelling and increased vaginal discharge
  • Painful urination
  • Fever
  • Vomiting
  • Nausea

It is crucial to go to the emergency room or see your doctor after noticing these symptoms. PID can be life-threatening if it reaches the bloodstream.

3) Sacroiliac joint dysfunction

The sacroiliac (SI) joint is the joint located between the sacrum and ilium bones of the pelvis, it connects your lower spine and pelvis. The exact cause of SI joint dysfunction is unknown, but scientists theorize that changes in the normal joint motion could be the primary culprit. Basically, if the joint is too much mobile or not enough, it can cause pain and discomfort. Women are eight to ten times more likely to develop SI joint dysfunction than men, particularly young and middle-aged ladies.

It is important to mention that sacroiliac joint dysfunction and sacroiliitis isn’t the same thing. Sacroiliitis refers to the inflammation and irritation of the SI joint and it occurs due to some underlying health conditions including arthritis. On the other hand, SI joint dysfunction is the condition that occurs due to excessive or insufficient movement of this joint and it is one of the most common causes of lower back pain in women.
Symptoms associated with SI joint dysfunction include:

  • Lower back pain
  • Burning* sensation in pelvic area
  • Groin or thigh pain
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Balance issues

The pain associated with this condition usually worsens after prolonged sitting or when you’re climbing stairs.

4) Kidney infection

Pyelonephritis or kidney infection is categorized as a form of urinary tract infection that starts in urethra or bladder and travels to one or both your kidneys. Most kidney infections are caused by bacteria that enter the urinary tract through the urethra and multiply. That being said, bacteria linked to infections in other parts of your body can enter the bloodstream and reach one or both kidneys as well.

Why are women prone to kidney infection? The reason is that urethra is much shorter in females than in men, thus making it easier for bacteria to reach the bladder. Besides being a woman, other factors that enhance* your odds of developing kidney infection include a weak immune system, damage to nerves around the bladder, and using a urinary catheter.
Symptoms associated with kidney infection include:

  • Abdominal pain
  • Burning* sensation when urinating
  • Cloudy urine or it smells bad
  • Fever
  • Frequent urination
  • Lower back pain
  • Nausea and vomiting

It is strongly advised to see the doctor if you experience these symptoms to avoid permanent kidney damage.

5 ) Premenstrual syndrome (PMS)

PMS is a condition that affects women’s physical health, emotions, and behavior before menses. Most women experience PMS but the intensity varies. While in some women symptoms are mild or barely noticeable, others experience severe pain, discomfort, and many other symptoms of PMS. Figures show that 85% of menstruating women have at least one symptom of PMS as part of their monthly cycle.

The exact cause of premenstrual syndrome is unknown, but it is thought that alterations in serotonin and sex hormone levels at the beginning of the menstrual cycle have a lot to do with the condition. During this time of the month, levels of estrogen and progesterone increase* significantly thus causing mood swings and irritability. Changes in serotonin levels also influence your behavior due to its impact on your mood.

PMS is one of the causes of lower back pain in females that aren’t necessarily associated with your back. Besides this symptom, women also experience:

  • Abdominal bloating and pain
  • Anxiety
  • Constipation
  • Depression
  • Diarrhea
  • Emotional outbursts
  • Food cravings, particularly candies and sweets
  • Headaches
  • Mood swings
  • Sensitivity to sound or light
  • Tender and sore breasts

These symptoms go away on their own after the period, but if they are severe you should consult a doctor who will propose different management techniques.

6) Endometriosis

Endometriosis is a painful disorder wherein the endometrium, a tissue that lines the inside of the uterus grows outside of it. In this case, the displaced endometrial tissue acts like it normally would i.e. it starts to thicken, break down, and bleed during menstrual cycle every month. The condition involves severe pain and other symptoms including:

  • Bloating
  • Constipation
  • Diarrhea
  • Excessive bleeding
  • Fatigue
  • Infertility
  • Nausea
  • Pain during intercourse
  • Pain during urination and bowel movements
  • Pain in lower back
  • Painful periods

Causes of endometriosis include weak immune system, surgical scar implementation, embryonic cell transformation, retrograde menstruation, just to name a few. Your risk of developing this condition increases* if you never gave birth, have uterine abnormalities, consume alcohol, have a short menstrual cycle (shorter than 27 days), low body mass index and if you have higher estrogen levels in your body.

7) Miscarriage

As you are already aware, miscarriage is defined as an event resulting in a loss of a fetus during pregnancy. According to the American Pregnancy Association, 10-25% of all clinically recognized pregnancies end in miscarriage.

The cause of miscarriage varies from one woman to another and in some cases it is unknown. Potential causes of this unfortunate event include genetic or chromosome issues, poor diet, underlying health condition, medications, among others.

Symptoms of a miscarriage include:

  • Cramps
  • Heavy spotting
  • Mild to severe lower back pain
  • Noticing expulsion of tissue with clots from vagina
  • Severe abdominal pain
  • Vaginal bleeding

8) Fibromyalgia

Fibromyalgia is a chronic condition indicated by widespread pain in bones and muscles and in other parts of the body. The pain is often times unexplained which is why fibromyalgia wasn’t considered as an individual condition for many years. In fact, there was a stigma associated with fibromyalgia where people (and doctors) thought patients used pain as an excuse to get prescription medications.

About 80-90% of all fibromyalgia cases involve women, but it’s not known why women are more prone to this condition than men. Symptoms of fibromyalgia are highly subjective, which is explains why it is often misdiagnosed for some other health condition. Common signs and symptoms associated with fibromyalgia include:

  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Dull aching or pain in lower abdomen
  • Fatigue
  • Headache
  • Lack of focus and attention
  • Pain in lower back
  • Sleeping for long periods of time and still feeling tired

9) Osteoporosis

Osteoporosis is a common condition where bones become brittle and are easily fractured. Although the condition affects both men and women of all races, Asian and white ladies are at the highest risk. The risk of osteoporosis increases* after menopause. Osteoporosis occurs when the bone is broken down before the new bone is made.

When you’re young, this process develops fast but as you’re getting older, bone renewal slows down. The likelihood of developing osteoporosis depends on how much bone a person attained in youth.

Symptoms of osteoporosis include:

  • Bone fracture occurring easily
  • Loss of height over time
  • Lower back pain
  • Stooped posture

10) Coccydynia

Coccydynia refers to tailbone inflammation. The condition refers to the instances when a patient experiences pain and tenderness at the tip of tailbone between the buttocks. While in most cases an injury or trauma cause inflammation of tailbone and pelvic bone, the condition sometimes occurs spontaneously. Women are five times more likely than men develop this condition.

Other conditions can mimic coccydynia pain including sciatica, fractured bone, pilonidal cysts, infections, just to name a few. Symptoms of this condition usually revolve around pain and tenderness in lower back or tailbone area. A patient also experiences difficulty sitting or leaning against the buttocks.

11) Piriformis syndrome

Piriformis syndrome is defined as a condition wherein the piriformis muscle in the buttock area spasms, thus inducing pain in this region. The muscle can also irritate the sciatic nerve which is nearby and lead to numbness, tingling, and pain. Although it may not seem familiar, piriformis syndrome is a common cause of lower back pain in women who are six times more likely to develop the condition than men.

The exact cause of piriformis syndrome is unknown, but scientists suspect that tightening of the muscle in response to trauma or injury might play a role. Other suspected causes include bleeding in the area of the piriformis muscle, swelling due to injury or spasm, and irritation of the muscle.

An affected person experiences symptoms such as:

  • Decreased* range of motion
  • Dull ache in buttock or lower back region
  • Increased pain after prolonged sitting
  • Pain when walking upstairs

What are the Symptoms of Lower Back Pain in Women?

Pain in the lower back area can be acute (comes and goes) or chronic (long-term). Paying attention to all symptoms you experience at the time can make management significantly easier. Symptoms of lower back pain in females depend on the cause. As shown above, causes of pain in this area are numerous. In most cases, an affected person experiences a combination of the following symptoms:

  • Dull or aching pain: refers to the pain that remains in the low back area. Pain can be stinging, burning*, or sharp and it is usually accompanied by muscle spasms, pain in pelvis and hips, and decreased* range of motion
  • Pain feels better* when changing positions: patients usually discover that some positions only enhance* the pain in lower back while other positions alleviate* it
  • Pain gets worse after prolonged sitting: this symptom occurs in most cases of low back pain because sitting puts pressure on discs in your spine
  • Pain is worse after waking up: a vast majority of patients who experience lower back pain report the discomfort is enhanced* the first thing in the morning. However, pain decreases* after getting up and moving
  • Pain traveling to butt, legs, and feet: in some instances the pain doesn’t remain in low back area, but it travels through your buttons down the legs and feet i.e. you experience symptoms of sciatica

If your lower back pain is accompanied by the following symptoms, you should seek immediate care:

  • Fever and chills
  • Loss of bowel and bladder control*
  • Severe abdominal pain
  • Sudden weight loss* without lifestyle changes

Which Organ Causes Lower Back Pain?

Just because you experience lower back pain, it doesn’t mean your back is the problem. Many conditions can induce pain in the low back area. Injuries, syndromes, and diseases affecting different organs can also lead to lower back pain. Therefore, organs that can cause or lead to lower back pain include:

  • Bladder
  • Bowel
  • Kidneys
  • Reproductive organs

How to fix Lower Back Pain in Women?

The treatment of low back pain depends on the underlying cause, which is yet another reason why you should schedule an appointment and see the doctor for symptoms you experience. The doctor evaluates each patient, assesses your health status and physical activity level and recommends different tests to rule out other conditions with similar symptoms in order to make an accurate diagnosis.

In cases when lower back pain is associated with other health conditions, then treatment for that problem can also help alleviate* pain and discomfort. Depending on the diagnosis, patients have different treatments to try, but a combination of different approaches seems to be the most effective.

When it comes to lower back pain, you’re not helpless. There are many things you can do to alleviate* pain and discomfort and improve* quality of life. Here are some treatment options even your doctor will recommend:

  • Medications – the most common way of treating lower back pain is to take painkillers. Over-the-counter medications are usually recommended. Doctor will prescribe drugs only when a patient deals with severe pain.
  • Hot and cold – you’ve probably heard about this approach, it’s an effective way to address pain and stiffness not only in your back but in knees, hips, and other joints. Hot compresses alleviate* stiffness i.e. after prolonged sitting or when you wake up. Ice packs or cold gels numb the pain. It’s good to experiment and see what works for you. In most patients, a combination of hot and cold (alternating between the two) works best.
  • Reconsider your mattress – if you are prone to lower back pain, then it’s time for you to get a different mattress. Generally, sleeping on a medium-firm mattress is better* for patients with low back pain than firm bed.
  • Exercise – even though it may seem logical that lower back pain means you should stay in bed as long as possible, it’s practical to avoid long periods of inactivity. Being sedentary can only enhance* the pain. While getting some much-needed rest is recommended, you should also strive to exercise about 20-30 minutes. Do low-impact exercises that don’t put too much pressure on your back but help you increase* range of motion at the same time.
  • Back brace – some patients with low back pain find that wearing back brace provides* comfort and reduces* pain. Back brace comes practical after back surgery too.
  • Massage – one of the best relaxing techniques, massage improves* blood flow and helps your body along with nerves and muscles to relax.

Conclusion

Even though everyone can suffer from low back pain, women are more prone to men. A number of different causes can lead to lower back pain in women, but fortunately, there are different ways to reduce* pain and improve* quality of life. Just make sure you don’t ignore the symptoms and be proactive about your health.
References
http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/art.34347/full
https://www.thegoodbody.com/back-pain-statistics/
https://www.womenshealth.gov/a-z-topics/pelvic-inflammatory-disease
https://www.braceability.com/blog/sacroiliac-joint-pain-pregnancy/
https://www.womenshealth.gov/a-z-topics/premenstrual-syndrome#e
http://americanpregnancy.org/pregnancy-complications/miscarriage/
https://www.spine-health.com/conditions/lower-back-pain/lower-back-pain-symptoms

Take Action: Support Consumer Health Digest by linking to this article from your website

Permalink to this article:

Embed article link: (Click to copy HTML code below):

Reprinting this article:
Non-commercial use OK, cite ConsumerHealthDigest.com with clickable link.


 
 
Author

Expert Author : Beth Solomon (Consumer Health Digest)

Beth Solomon has been writing articles on health for more than two years with a concentration on pain management and men’s and women’s health and fitness. She has been a contributing editor to Consumer Health Digest since 2013.