Did you know that roughly 60-80% of people will suffer low back pain some point in their lives? Low back pain is one of the most common musculoskeletal problems for which patients consult doctors.

Often low back pain is caused by a muscle strain. It resolves quickly, without the need for invasive procedures. It can be hard, though, to know when your low back pain could be a sign of a more serious condition.

This article offers some signs and symptoms of possibly more serious lumbar spine issues.

Weakness in the leg or foot

Weakness of a particular muscle group could be a sign of a nerve problem. Look for the inability, or decreased ability, to move part of the leg, ankle or foot. For example, weakness when you try to pull your foot toward the head – what orthopaedic surgeons call dorsiflexion – could be serious.

Low back pain

Pain shooting down one leg

A herniated disc usually causes a patient to have pain down the leg more than in the lower back itself. If pain radiates down the leg and often into your foot or toes, it could be a sign of a herniated disc pressing on one of the nerves in your lumbar spine.

Numbness or tingling

Numbness and tingling can represent a neurologic problem. Often they are present only in a portion of the thigh, leg, or foot, not the entire leg, due to the specific nerve affected.

Pain improves with lower back flexion

A patient with spinal stenosis often notices that his low back pain improves when he bends forward compared to when he stands up straight. If you have this condition, you might also note that your pain is better when sitting.

Loss of bowel or bladder control

Sudden loss of bladder or bowel control could signify spinal cord or nerve compression. It should be evaluated quickly. It could represent a very serious problem.

This list is not comprehensive. Again, this article is not intended to serve as specific medical advice. Consider consulting a spine physician or surgeon if you have low back pain, with or without these symptoms.

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