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    What to Do When Your Lower Back Feels Like It's Burning

    How to Treat Burning Sensation in Lower Back?

    This guide provides steps to identify the underlying causes, diagnosis, and how to treat burning sensation in lower back.

    February 26, 2024   |    3 Mins Read


    Are you grappling with an annoying burning sensation in your lower back and wondering how to put out the "fire"? Our comprehensive guide provides actionable steps to identify the underlying causes and offers a range of treatment options to get you back to feeling your best.

    Why Does My Lower Back Feel Hot Inside?

    If you've experienced a sudden onset of pain in your lower back that feels like a searing, tingling heat, you've likely encountered what medical professionals refer to as "burning back pain." Unlike dull aches or generalized discomfort, burning back pain is often indicative of a specific underlying issue that may involve nerve irritation or compression.

    The sensation can be localized to a specific area or might radiate to other parts of your body like your hips or legs, particularly if the sciatic nerve is involved. Burning back pain can manifest suddenly or develop gradually over time. It might occur after specific activities, like lifting heavy objects, or might appear seemingly out of nowhere.

    The "burning" descriptor is significant because it often points to a neural issue, possibly involving nerve fibers, nerve roots, or even broader central nervous system dysfunction. These neural pathways are responsible for transmitting pain signals, and when they are irritated or compressed, as may occur with a herniated disc or spinal stenosis, the pain can manifest as a burning sensation.

    For instance, imagine you've spent the weekend moving furniture and come Monday, you wake up with an uncomfortable burning sensation localized in your lower back. The discomfort amplifies when you try to bend to tie your shoes. In this scenario, the physical stress of lifting heavy objects may have exacerbated an underlying issue, potentially causing a muscle strain or even herniating a disc, thereby leading to the symptoms you're experiencing.


    Mild: A slight discomfort that's more annoying than debilitating. This could result from minor muscle strains, poor posture, or fatigue. Regular stretching and maintaining good posture can often address the issue.

    Medium: A pronounced pain that can disrupt daily activities but isn't unbearable. Causes might include muscle spasms, minor disc issues, or prolonged poor posture. It's advisable to consult a healthcare professional for guidance and potential physical therapy.

    Severe: Intense pain that can be debilitating and significantly affects quality of life. Severe pain can indicate serious conditions like herniated discs, significant nerve compression, or other spinal issues. Immediate medical attention is recommended.

    Duration of Pain

    Hours: Short-term pain that often follows a specific activity or injury. Causes could include minor muscle strain or overexertion. Rest, ice, and over-the-counter pain relief can be effective.

    Days: Pain persisting for several days might result from more significant muscle strain, minor disc problems, or an aggravated nerve. If pain doesn't lessen after self-care, seek medical advice.

    Months: Chronic pain spanning months can be indicative of ongoing issues like disc degeneration, chronic muscle problems, or nerve compression. Professional medical intervention, including physical therapy or stronger medications, may be necessary.

    Years: Pain that lasts years requires comprehensive medical evaluation. It suggests long-term issues like advanced disc degeneration, spinal stenosis, or chronic muscle imbalances. A tailored, multidisciplinary approach to treatment is essential.

    What Causes A Burning Sensation In Your Back?

    The lower back, or lumbar region, plays an essential role in supporting the upper body. When a burning sensation emerges in this area, it's a sign of possible health concerns. Identifying the specific causes can guide effective treatment measures.

    Herniated Disc

    The discs between our vertebrae serve as cushions. Activities like bending awkwardly or lifting heavy items might cause these discs to rupture. When they do, they can press onto adjacent nerves. This compression is a direct source of the burning feeling in the lower back. People frequently encounter this after activities that strain the back or from age-related wear and tear.

    Spinal Stenosis

    Our spinal canal houses the spinal cord. Factors such as age and repeated strain, perhaps from jobs requiring constant bending, can cause this canal to narrow. This narrowing compresses the spinal cord or nerves, leading to inflammation. As these nerves get squeezed, the result is often a burning sensation radiating in the lower back region.

    Multiple Sclerosis (MS)

    MS is where the immune system wrongly targets nerve coverings. This assault disrupts signals between the brain and body. If nerves in the lower back face this damage, it results in a burning sensation. MS symptoms can be triggered by various factors, including fatigue or even temperature changes.

    Skeletal Bony Deformities

    The spine's structure might deviate due to birth conditions or accidents like a fall. These deviations exert uneven pressure on the vertebrae and surrounding tissues. This constant strain irritates nerves, causing a burning sensation in the lower back.

    Muscle Spasms

    Suddenly, muscles might contract or spasm. Overexerting during activities, like a heavy workout without sufficient warm-up, or even dehydration, can lead to these spasms. When they occur in the back, they might compress surrounding nerves, causing a familiar burning pain.

    Sciatic Nerve Issues

    This large nerve stretches from the lower back down to the legs. Routine actions, like sitting for prolonged periods or even wearing high heels often, can compress or irritate this nerve. When this happens, a sharp burning pain, commonly known as sciatica, emanates from the lower back and travels downwards.

    Sedentary Lifestyle

    Prolonged inactivity, perhaps from desk jobs or binge-watching TV shows, weakens the back muscles. Without adequate strength, these muscles fail to provide necessary spine support. This lack of support and the resulting strain often trigger the burning sensations in the lower back.


    Continuous mental strain makes our muscles, especially in the back, remain tensed. This constant tension, perhaps from ongoing work deadlines or family challenges, over time, irritates the nerves in the vicinity. The outcome? A nagging burning pain in the lumbar region.

    Symptoms of Burning Back Pain

    Apart from the burning sensation, other signs accompany different conditions responsible for back pain. Therefore, it's essential to keep track of additional symptoms that can help you identify the underlying cause.

    Some people experience muscle spasms or stiffness in the lower back. Others may have trouble walking or standing upright due to severe pain. A lack of mobility and numbness in

    Persistent Warmth

    One of the most telling symptoms is a continuous sensation of warmth in the back. It feels like a heat pad placed against the skin, but there's no external source of this heat. This persistent warmth might be unsettling, and it often indicates inflammation or irritation in the affected area. It's crucial to monitor this symptom, especially if it remains consistent over time.

    Numbness in the Lower Back

    Numbness refers to a lack of sensation or feeling in a particular area. When people experience numbness in the lower back, they often describe it as an area "falling asleep." It may feel like a zone where touch and temperature sensations are dulled or completely absent. This symptom usually indicates a nerve compression or damage in the lower spine. Nerve interruptions can lead to this loss of sensation, signaling a potential underlying condition that needs attention.

    Pins and Needles

    Often described as a "tingling" sensation, this symptom feels like many tiny pinpricks against the skin. It's not just a passing feeling; it lingers, often indicating nerve disruption or compression. When the nerves in the lower back face pressure or damage, they send erratic signals, resulting in this prickling sensation, making it vital to not dismiss this symptom.

    Increased Pain with Movement

    Some activities might amplify the pain. Bending over to tie a shoe, lifting a grocery bag, or even turning quickly can lead to a sharp increase in discomfort. This intensified pain with movement often signals conditions like herniated discs or muscle spasms. It indicates that certain postures or actions are putting additional strain on an already affected area in the lower back.

    Radiating Pain

    burning pain in the lower back that radiations down to the legs or buttocks can be caused by sciatica

    The discomfort is not just limited to the back, it starts in the lower back and shoots down to the legs or buttocks. This radiating sensation is typically a sign of sciatic nerve irritation. The nerve, when compressed or inflamed, sends pain signals that follow its path. Anyone experiencing this traveling pain should take it as a clear sign that immediate attention is necessary.

    Exams and Tests

    Treating burning sensations in the lower back requires identifying their underlying cause. To accomplish this, medical professionals perform several exams and tests, such as:

    Medical History and Physical Exam

    Your doctor will start by analyzing your medical history and performing a physical exam. During this process, they will ask a series of questions about your symptoms, any past injuries or chronic conditions such as:

    • When did the pain first surface?
    • Have there been recent incidents of back injury or overexertion?
    • Are specific activities aggravating this burning sensation?
    • Is the sensation localized or spread across your back?
    • Are there accompanying symptoms?
    • What medications, if any, are you currently on?

    Your responses pave the way, guiding the physician to recommend suitable diagnostic tests.

    Diagnostic Tests

    1. Blood Test: Blood tests can be instrumental in revealing the hidden culprits behind back pain. They can unveil the presence of infections, inflammation, arthritis, or even some types of cancer.
    2.  Bone Scan: Should there be suspicion of bone-related issues, a bone scan could be next on the cards. In this procedure, a minuscule quantity of radioactive material is introduced into your bloodstream. This material naturally gravitates towards areas with bone abnormalities. Subsequent scanning pinpoints areas with anomalous blood flow or altered bone metabolism.
    3. Discography: Delving deeper into spinal health, discography specifically focuses on spinal discs. Here, a contrasting dye is injected into the suspected problematic disc. If this injection recreates your burning pain, it hints at disc damage. In the absence of significant pain, the disc is likely healthy. Post-injection, a CT scan or X-ray observes the dye's dispersion. Spreading dye typically flags a damaged disc.
    4. Electrodiagnostic Procedures: Your back pain might have neural roots. Electrodiagnostic tests help pinpoint issues linked to the nerves of your back and legs. This umbrella term covers:

    • Electromyography (EMG): Measures the electrical activity within muscle tissues, indicating muscle health and potential nerve disorders.
    • Evoked Potential Studies: These gauge the electrical activity in the brain in response to stimuli, providing insights into nerve pathways.
    • Nerve Conduction Studies: As the name suggests, these tests assess how well specific nerves are transmitting electrical impulses.

    5. Imaging Tests: A non-invasive look inside, imaging tests are invaluable in visualizing structural aspects without resorting to surgery. Key tests include:

    • CT Scan: A sophisticated X-ray technology that presents detailed cross-sectional images of the spine, allowing doctors to detect abnormalities.
    • MRI: A technology that uses magnetic fields to produce detailed images of both bone and soft tissues, such as muscles and ligaments.
    • X-ray: The classic imaging test, X-rays offer insights into the alignment of bones, identifying fractures or degenerative diseases.

    Treatment Options

    Treatment options for burning sensations in the lower back depend on their underlying cause. Possible treatments include:

    Physical Therapy

    Specific exercises can strengthen your back and abdominal muscles, relieve pressure on spinal nerves, and improve your posture, reducing symptoms.

    OTC Medicines

    These are over-the-counter pills like ibuprofen that can help reduce swelling and pain in your back. They're good for quick relief but remember, they're not fixing the problem, just masking the pain. Always check with a doctor for the right medication and dosage for you.

    Steroid Injections

    For really bad or ongoing pain, you might get a steroid shot directly into the area around your spine that's hurting. This is a more potent way to reduce swelling and can offer longer-lasting relief than pills. But these shots should be a last resort and are usually recommended only after other treatments haven't worked.

    Topical Creams

    Topical analgesics, available both over-the-counter and by prescription, can be applied directly to the affected area. These creams often contain ingredients like menthol or capsaicin that provide a soothing sensation and temporary pain relief.

    Surgical Treatment

    In more serious cases like a herniated disc or a narrowing of the space around your spinal cord (spinal stenosis), you might need surgery. This is usually the last option when other treatments fail. The goal is to relieve the pressure on the nerves in your back, which should reduce your pain.

    Possible Complications

    Ignoring a burning sensation in your lower back could worsen the underlying condition. For instance, if a herniated disc compresses nerves and goes untreated, it might lead to permanent nerve damage. The resulting pain could be chronic, leading to mobility restrictions or even paralysis.

    1. Chronic Pain Leading to Limited Mobility:

    Chronic pain is not just an extended bout of acute pain. Over time, persistent pain can severely curtail one's ability to move freely. The muscles might stiffen or weaken, and the joints might become less flexible. As the back is central to many movements, compromised function can lead to a decreased range of motion. This limited mobility often restricts individuals from engaging in daily activities, exercise, and even basic tasks, making independence challenging.

    2. Development of Posture-related Issues:

    Burning back pain can instinctively lead one to adopt altered postures to mitigate the discomfort. Over time, these unnatural postures can become habitual, leading to further musculoskeletal problems. For instance, a person might slouch or lean to one side consistently. This can result in an uneven distribution of weight and stress on the spine, leading to conditions like scoliosis or kyphosis. Moreover, other parts of the body, like the neck, hips, or knees, might compensate for the back's pain, potentially leading to issues in these areas as well.

    3. Sleep Disturbances Due to Pain:

    A good night's sleep is pivotal for overall health, but burning back pain can be a formidable adversary to restful slumber. Pain might make finding a comfortable sleeping position elusive. Frequent awakenings due to spikes in pain can fragment sleep, leading to a pattern of insomnia. Over time, sleep deprivation can contribute to a host of other health problems, including weakened immunity, memory issues, and even heart disease.

    4. Depression or Anxiety Linked to Ongoing Discomfort:

    It's not just the physical ramifications of burning back pain that are concerning. Persistent pain often casts a long shadow on mental health. The constant discomfort, combined with the inability to partake in previously enjoyed activities or a diminished quality of life, can breed feelings of hopelessness, sadness, or anxiety. Furthermore, the chronic nature of the pain, the uncertainty of recovery, and potential reliance on medications can exacerbate feelings of depression or anxiety, creating a feedback loop where mental distress amplifies the perception of physical pain.

    Treatment Approaches At-Home

    1. Cold or Heat Packs:

    Applying cold packs can reduce inflammation shortly after the onset of pain. Once the inflammation subsides, heat packs can relax tight muscles and improve blood circulation. Always wrap these packs in cloth to avoid direct contact with the skin. Alternate between cold and heat treatments for the best results.

    2. OTC Pain Relievers:

    Over-the-counter pain relievers, like ibuprofen or acetaminophen, can help decrease pain and inflammation. Ensure you follow the recommended dosage and consult with a pharmacist or physician if you have other underlying health conditions.

    3. Stretches:

    Gentle stretching exercises can help ease muscle tension and improve flexibility in the lower back. Techniques such as the pelvic tilt, knee-to-chest stretch, or the lumbar rotation stretch can be particularly effective. Start slowly, hold each stretch for about 20-30 seconds, and never force a movement.

    4. Ergonomic Chairs and Desks:

    If you spend a lot of time sitting, an ergonomic chair and desk setup are essential. They provide the right support to your lower back and promote good posture. Adjust the chair's height and backrest to fit your body dimensions. The desk should allow your arms to remain parallel to the ground when typing.

    5. Back Braces:

    A back brace supports the spine and restricts certain movements that might exacerbate the pain. They're especially beneficial if you're lifting heavy objects or engaging in activities that put a strain on your back. However, it's essential to not become overly reliant on them, as prolonged use can weaken back muscles.

    Tips for Alleviating Burning Sensation in the Back

    • Seek assistance when lifting heavy objects to avoid straining your back.
    • Position your feet apart during lifting to ensure better balance.
    • Stand close to the item you're lifting to reduce the strain on your back.
    • Always bend from your knees instead of your waist during lifting or bending activities.
    • Engage your core muscles while lifting for added stability.
    • Keep the object you're lifting close to your body for more comfortable lifting.
    • Rely on the strength of your legs for lifting rather than your back.
    • Maintain an upright posture throughout the lifting process, refraining from leaning forward.
    • Avoid twisting your torso when picking up, carrying, or placing objects.
    • Don't remain standing for extended periods; periodically sit or lean to give your back a rest.
    • Opt for supportive footwear over high heels to provide better back support.
    • If you spend a lot of time sitting, invest in an ergonomic chair that offers adjustability and back support.
    • For prolonged sitting or driving, use a lumbar pillow to support the natural curve of your back.
    • Incorporate short walking intervals throughout your day to ease muscle tension.
    • Abstain from smoking, which can have adverse effects on spinal health.
    • Shed any excess weight, as it can place undue pressure on your back.
    • Focus on exercises that strengthen your abdominal and core muscles, promoting stability and reducing the risk of back issues.

    When to Call a Doctor

    Though many cases of burning back pain subside with at-home treatments, it's essential to seek medical assistance if the symptoms persist or worsen. Additionally, some warning signs require immediate attention from a physician, including:

    • Back pain that radiates down your leg, accompanied by numbness or weakness.
    • Difficulty controlling bowel movements or bladder function.
    • Unexplained weight loss or fever.
    • Back pain that develops after a fall, injury, or car accident.
    • Pain that interferes with daily activities and sleep.

    Ultimately, recognizing the signs of burning back pain and taking proactive steps to address them can have significant implications for your overall health and well-being.

    Don't wait until the pain becomes unbearable; take care of your back now to prevent long-term consequences. Remember, a healthy back is the key to an active and fulfilling life. So, stay proactive, stay knowledgeable and always prioritize your well-being above all else! Keep learning about different ways to maintain or improve your spinal health and consult with a healthcare professional if you have any concerns or persistent issues. Your back will thank you for it.


    Claire Evans worked as the content marketing manager at Koprez. Claire combined a background of writing and editing, marketing, and patient education to best serve consumers, fitness enthusiasts, athletes, and anyone who relies on the Koprez brand for helpful information.

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