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Seven Top Causes of Back Pain in Females: Should I Call the Doctor?

Back pain is one of the most common medical problems, affecting eight out of 10 people in their adult life. However, there are several causes of back pain in females that are specific to women because of their anatomy or hormones.

The Most Common Causes of Back Pain in Females

Piriformis Syndrome – Many women will experience pain produced by spasms in the piriformis muscle, which is the large muscle deep in the buttock region. Due to pelvic changes brought on by hormones and pregnancy, women are more susceptible to this pain. It can cause irritation or compression of the sciatic nerve — causing radiating pain in the back of the leg. This is often mistaken for back pain associated with spinal problems. Women will experience pain in the buttock and hip area, especially when moving the hips. There may be pain getting out of bed and when sitting for long periods of time. You can get relief from the pain by lying on your back.

Sacroiliac (SI) Joint Dysfunction – The sacroiliac joint connects the bottom of the spine to your pelvis. SI joint problems are among the more common causes of lower back pain. Women typically have a smaller SI joint surface area compared to men, which can cause stresses across the joint. This anatomical difference can lead to a higher risk of SI joint misalignment, especially in younger women. Pain is focused in the lower back and will usually be dull or achy but may flare up, causing sharp pain down the thigh. This is often mistaken for sciatica. The pain can increase when sitting or climbing stairs.

Contact National Spine & Pain Centers to schedule an appointment with an affiliated pain specialist today.

Spinal Osteoarthritis – This is a common arthritis for women, typically discovered in the facet joints (vertebrae connectors). The risk increases with age and/or weight. This occurs when there is a breakdown of the fibrous cartilage in the facet joints. Without that “shock absorber,” bones may hit and rub together, producing pain in the upper or lower back, groin, buttocks, and thighs. You may notice pain and stiffness in the morning with flare-ups on the side of your back when bending.

Degenerative Spondylolisthesis – This is a condition that occurs when a vertebra slips over the one below it due to degeneration. The condition is more common in post-menopausal women due to low estrogen levels. Low estrogen levels degrade the spinal discs and loosen the ligaments that hold vertebrae together, which causes spinal instability. Often, this condition causes lower back pain radiating into the legs and pain when walking due to spinal cord compression. You can get some relief when taking pressure off the spine by bending forward.

CoccydyniaOtherwise known as pain in the tailbone, this pain is typically the result of injury or chronic irritation. It is more common in women due to the differences in the shape and angle of the pelvis or from injury during childbirth. The coccyx is responsible for weight-bearing support in a sitting position. Often, pain is felt while sitting, or standing from a seated position. The pain can be relieved when standing.

Endometriosis – Exclusive to women — this is a gynecological issue. The Mayo Clinic describes it as a painful disorder in which tissue similar to the tissue that normally lines the inside of your uterus — the endometrium — grows outside your uterus. Symptoms include a painful menstrual cycle with severe abdominal pain and, often, chronic lower back pain, especially during menstruation.

PMS- Premenstrual syndrome Another hormonal condition that may cause back pain for women is PMS, a condition many women get before their periods. The pain usually subsides when menstruation begins and can be treated with home remedies like heat and over-the-counter pain medications.

Back Pain During Sexual Intercourse

Many people want to know, can sex cause lower back pain? The answer is yes, especially if you already experience back pain or have a chronic condition. However, with a proper pain diagnosis, your physician should be able to recommend positions and approaches that you and your partner can try, in order to maintain a healthy sex life.

Pregnancy Back Pain

As many as 50 percent to 80 percent of women will also experience back pain during their pregnancy. It is quite common because your center of gravity shifts, you have weight gain, and your hormones soften the ligaments of the body in preparation for birth. The pain typically occurs between the fifth and seventh months as your body changes. Most expectant mothers will experience pain below the waist and across the tailbone while adjusting to the additional weight. There are some lifestyle changes you can try to alleviate the discomfort. However, it is recommended that you see your OB/GYN to ensure that you are not experiencing pre-term labor.

If you get the all-clear from your doctor, there are a few changes that could make the pregnancy back pain more bearable. For example, watch your posture when you are sitting, take frequent breaks and walk or stretch, avoid heavy lifting, watch your weight gain, and wear comfortable shoes. If your doctor approves, you may want to consider a certified pregnancy massage and yoga classes designed for pregnant women.

Organs that Cause Lower Back Pain with Women

There are certain organs, that when irritated, inflamed, or injured may also be one of the causes of back pain in females.

  • Not exclusive to women, people may experience back pain as one of the first symptoms of appendicitis.
  • The kidneys can be another possible cause of back pain. You may experience pain when you have a kidney infection. A more severe condition is kidney stones. Stones occur when too many chemical toxins can’t be diluted in the urine. Hard masses are formed and become painful when trying to pass through the urinary tract and can cause a sharp pain in the lower back and side of your body.
  • When the pancreas becomes inflamed (pancreatitis), it can cause a sharp pain that originates in the center of the stomach and travels along the back.
  • The stomach can cause severe back pain brought on by gas or bloating, or even a stomach virus.
  • Specific to women, the ovaries can cause back pain. Ovarian cysts are firm or fluid-filled growths on one or both ovaries. The cysts can push on other organs, causing lower back pain.
  • Women can also experience pain originating from the uterus if fibroids are present.

Home Remedies vs. When to Call A Doctor

Home remedies for these conditions and other back pain may include over-the-counter medications, ice or heat, or a combination of both. Often, walking or easy movement is recommended for some conditions. In some instances, however, limiting activity and resting may be just what the doctor ordered.

The pain management specialists at National Spine & Pain Centers encourage women to make an appointment to see a provider anytime the back pain you experience lasts more than two weeks and is not improving with these home remedies. Additionally, if the pain is causing numbness, weakness, a sudden spike in pain, loss of bladder function, fever, weight loss, or is chronically affecting your quality of life on an everyday basis. Your healthcare provider will run necessary tests to determine the cause of your pain and recommend treatment, which may include lifestyle changes, physical therapy, or pain medication. If the condition persists, the specialist may discuss surgical options to improve your pain.

Book an Appointment

If you are experiencing back pain, book an appointment with one of our pain management specialists at National Spine & Pain Centers to receive a proper diagnosis and treatment and get back to feeling better.

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