Low Back Pain

Houston Methodist is a proven leader in treatment of low back pain. Our board-certified spine specialists bring expertise and personalization to identify and treat the source of your symptoms.

The Houston Methodist spine team combines years of advanced training in low back pain care with access to the full range of treatment options. Together, we ensure you get the best care for your condition. Our goal is to provide personalized treatments to help you return to your daily activities.

Lower back pain affects about 28% of adults in the U.S., and it’s the single leading cause of disability worldwide. Symptoms can vary in intensity — causing muscle spasms or weakness — and may occur in one small area or throughout the entire lower back. Most low back pain gets better in about a week or two with rest and home remedies. But if your pain is lingering or getting worse, it's time to see a specialist. 

Diagnosing & Treating Low Back Pain

How is low back pain diagnosed?

Diagnosing the source of your low back pain starts with a comprehensive exam. Your doctor will ask about your medical history and perform a physical exam to check where pain, weakness and other symptoms originate. In some cases, we may order imaging such as an X-ray, CT scan or MRI to confirm or rule out other conditions.

Low back pain can range from mild tenderness to intense pain that interferes with work, sleep or daily activities. Symptoms can include: 


  • Dull ache in your hips and/or pelvis 
  • Muscle spasms or tightness
  • Pain that worsens with sitting and quickly improves while walking
  • Pain that is noticeably worse in the morning
  • Sharp, tingling pain that starts in your lower back and travels down one leg (also known as sciatica)


Common causes of lower back pain include: 


  • Arthritis, inflammation of the joints
  • Compression fracture of the vertebra (the bones in your spine)
  • Herniated disk in your spine (also known as a slipped, ruptured or bulging disk)
  • Osteoporosis (weak and brittle bones)
  • Overuse or injury to the muscles and tendons in the back
  • Spinal stenosis (narrowing of your spinal canal), which puts pressure on nearby nerves


Risk factors for low back pain include: 


  • Age
  • Genetic factors
  • Obesity, which puts increased stress on the lower back 
  • Physically demanding jobs, especially those involving repetitive lifting, pulling or pushing 

What treatments are available?

Most lower back pain is treated with rest, heat or ice therapy and over-the-counter pain medications. Light exercise, such as walking or gentle yoga, can reduce symptoms by strengthening the supporting muscles.

Severe cases may require more intensive treatment, including: 


  • Injection-based treatments to address nerve pain, such as epidural steroid injections 
  • Integrative therapies, like acupuncture and massage therapy 
  • Physical therapy
  • Prescription drugs, such as muscle relaxers, cortisone injections or narcotic pain medication


Even after the pain has gone away, it is important to be proactive about improving lower back health. Along with your doctor’s recommendations, follow these tips to help prevent further low back pain:


  • Avoid sitting for long periods — take regular breaks to stretch and walk around
  • Choose chairs with good back support
  • Get regular exercise
  • Maintain a healthy body weight
  • Practice straight posture while walking, sitting or standing
  • Sleep on your side, rather than your back or stomach

I need advanced care or a second opinion.

We understand how difficult it is to live with back pain. Whether you are looking for a new diagnosis or a second opinion, Houston Methodist’s spine experts will locate the source of your pain and help you find relief. Our compassionate team will design a personalized treatment plan that works for you. 

8 Common Causes of Lower Back Pain

Sometimes, you know exactly why your back is hurting. Others, it can feel like a mystery — one that can interfere with your social and professional goals.   

Find a Spine Specialist