How to Diagnose Lower Right Back Pain

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Many people have experienced lower right back pain. It is a common problem, with a vast array of causes. A self-diagnosis may not always be possible, and if the pain is acute, or continues to intensify, seek medical help immediately. However, there are a few tests you can perform at home to help you determine the root cause of your lower right back pain, and to let you know what type of treatment is needed.

The Nature of Pain

The history and nature of lower right back pain can help determine the severity, cause, and treatment required. There are several questions you should ask when attempting to diagnose the pain.

  • When did the pain begin? If the onset was after a traumatic event, such as a fall, the pain could be caused by a herniated disc or a pulled muscle. If the pain feels as though it’s in the muscles, chances are it will heal on its own, with time and rest. If the pain feels as though it’s in the spine, or is causing numbness in the legs, seek medical attention immediately.
  • Does the pain radiate? Is the pain localized or does it travel down the leg? If the pain travels down the buttocks and back of the thigh, you may have strained muscles. If the pain travels below the knee, immediate medical attention is required, as this can be a sign of a more serious problem.
  • Are there any other symptoms? Weakness or numbness of the limbs, incontinence, or gastrointestinal complaints accompanied by lower right back pain can be a sign of a serious injury. Seek medical attention immediately if you experience any of these symptoms.
  • What are your sleep patterns? Depression and poor sleep patterns can also cause lower right back pain. If you have insomnia, or sleep poorly, your back pain may be remedied by treating these problems and exercising regularly.

Physical Tests

There are a few physical tests that you can perform on your own to diagnose lower right back pain. These tests are typically carried out by a physician when trying to determine the cause of your pain. However, you can try them at home prior to visiting the doctor, if you wish. They will cause no further damage as long as you follow the instructions precisely.

  • The Straight Leg Raise Test. This test is performed by lying flat on your back. With the leg straight, raise the foot from the floor and hold it in the air. If you are unable to hold your leg in the air, or move it from the floor, seek medical attention immediately, as this is a red flag for serious injury.
  • Crossed Straight Leg Raise Test. This test is performed in the same way as the straight leg raise test. However, both legs should be raised, one at a time. If pain is experienced in the opposite leg being raised, this is indicative of a large or extruded disc fragment. Seek medical attention immediately if you test positive for injury.
  • The Heel and Toe walking Test. If you are able to walk, do so first on your heels, and then on your toes. Have someone near to keep your from falling. If weakness is experienced, this could be indicative of a muscular problem or disorder, or of an irritated spinal nerve.

These tests are meant to give you an overall impression of the cause of your pain. Even if you passed all the tests, it is still recommended that you seek medical attention. Only a physician can truly diagnose the cause of lower right back pain.

Pain Caused by Life-threatening Conditions

There are two types of lower right back pain that may be caused by life threatening conditions. If you experience either of these symptoms, get to the hospital with all haste.

  • Deep lumbar pain unaffected by activity. This type of pain, that throbs and hurts even when you aren’t moving, can be a sign of an abdominal aneurysm and can require emergency surgery.
  • Severe pain radiating through the abdomen. This type of back pain can indicate a perforated ulcer, or acute pancreatitis. Abdominal tenderness accompanied by the pain is common. Seek medical attention immediately if these symptoms are experienced.
  • Pain radiating from the abdomen. This may be an indicator of appendicitis, a life-threatening disorder if not treated promptly. The pain typically begins in the lower right abdomen and can radiate to the back. Other symptoms include vomiting, fever, abdominal tenderness, and painful, urgent urination. Seek medical attention immediately if you exhibit any of these symptoms.

Other Causes of Lower Right Back Pain

If you suspect that the pain is not caused by muscular or skeletal problems, and have ruled out any life-threatening conditions, there still may be a more serious underlying disorder. Internal diseases and infections can also cause lower right back pain.

  • Chordoma . This is a slow-developing malignant tumor which causes persistent lower right back pain. As the tumor expands, constipation and bowel or bladder incontinence may accompany the pain.
  • Invertebral Disc Rupture . This condition produces gradual or sudden lower right back pain. Leg pain radiating through the buttocks and thight may or may not be present. The pain is aggravated by sneezing, coughing, and activity, and is relieved by rest. Numbness and tingling in the lower leg and foot is also common, as well as extreme pain rising from a sitting position.
  • Lumbosacral Sprain. This condition produces aching, localized lower right back pain. Flexing knees and hips reduces pain. It is aggravated by movement, and relieved by rest.
  • Metastatic Tumors. These tumors cause lower right back pain in approximately 25 percent of patients. The tumor affects the spine and the abrupt pain is accompanied by cramping muscular pain that is not relieved by rest.
  • Myeloma . This is a type of malignant tumor which causes abrupt lower right back pain that worsens with movement. Accompanying symptoms include achiness, joint swelling, tenderness, fever, malaise, and weight loss.
  • Prostrate Cancer. This cancer often causes lower right back pain, and a decrease in the urine stream.
  • Sacroiliac Strain. This condition causes lower right back pain that may radiate to the buttocks, hip, and thigh. The pain is aggravated by movement and weight being placed on the affected side.
  • Benign Spinal Neoplasm. Spinal neoplasm causes localized severe lower right back pain, accompanied by scoliosis.
  • Spinal Stenosis . This condition is similar to an invertebral disc rupture. It causes lower right back pain with or without sciatica. The pain can radiate to the toes and can lead to numbness or weakness without rest.
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