Lower Back Pain and Cancer: What You Need to Know

Dec 20, 2021

For most adults, occasional lower back pain is a fact of life. A day of too much sitting or physical activity can cause soreness that will disappear after a few days of care. Others may have chronic back pain as a result of health conditions, lifestyle factors, or prior injuries. These may require back pain treatment but usually are not a cause for concern surrounding overall health. However, in rare cases, health conditions like cancer can include symptoms like lower back pain. It is important to understand your lower back pain and when to see a doctor to rule out these instances.

Lower Back Pain and Types of Cancer

While it is rare for lower back pain to be related to cancer, it can be true in various forms of the disease.

Spinal Cancer

In spinal cancer, there is an abnormal growth of cells in the spinal cord or other spinal tissues. When this is located in the lower spine, it can cause pain in the lower back, accompanied by muscle weakness, difficulty walking, or even paralysis. Spinal cancer is extremely rare, with less than 1% of adults likely to be diagnosed in their lifetime.

Lung Cancer

A tumor that is near the back of the lung could lead to lower back pain. This may be accompanied by a persistent cough, recurrent chest infections, and persistent breathlessness. While relatively uncommon, lung cancer can impact around 6.3% of adults.

Prostate Cancer

While it is not a major sign of prostate cancer, back pain can be associated with the condition. Advanced prostate cancer sometimes spreads to the bones, which can cause issues in the spine, ribs, and hips as the bones metastasize.

Metastatic Cancer

Any cancer that spreads to another part of the body is considered metastatic cancer. This can include cancer that begins somewhere else and spreads to the spine. Depending on the size and location of these new tumors, it could cause pain in the lower spine and weaken the bones.

Other Causes of Lower Back Pain

The majority of lower back pain is not caused by cancer but rather underlying damage and conditions. Some examples are below.


The human back is composed of various muscles, tendons, ligaments, and bones. Any of these elements can be injured due to high-impact car crashes and sports injuries or as a result of repetitive motions or lifting heavy objects.

Spinal Arthritis

Arthritis refers to inflammation of the joints, but there are over a hundred forms of this condition. Spinal arthritis can appear in any part of the spine, though it usually is in the neck or lower back region. Anyone suffering from spinal arthritis can experience lower back pain in addition to difficulty straightening the back, a grinding sensation during movement, numbness in the arms and legs, weakness, and fatigue.

Herniated Discs

The intervertebral discs between vertebrae exist to hold the spine together while allowing movement and flexibility, as well as acting as shock absorbers. If these discs move out of alignment or become ruptured, they invade the space of surrounding nerves, causing pain. Herniated discs are most common in the lower back and can cause pain in the buttocks, hips, and legs along with muscle weakness, numbness and tingling, or difficulty bending.


When the sciatic nerve, the longest nerve in the human body, is irritated, it can cause pain starting in the lower back and stretching down the buttocks, hips, and legs. This can happen as a result of a disc issue or any injury to the lower back area that irritates the spine and cause sciatica.

Other causes can include skeletal irregularities like scoliosis, spinal stenosis, radiculopathy, and degeneration of the intervertebral discs.

When to See a Doctor

Most mild cases of lower back pain resolve on their own with gentle home remedies and rest. However, any back pain that persists or worsens over time is a reason to visit a doctor. Pain that is sudden and severe or related to an injury should also be seen immediately.

Doctors may begin by trying to rule out serious issues like injuries and other conditions. If they do not find a cause or you have other risk factors, they may also look for tumors that could be causing the pain, but this is very unlikely to be the case.

If you are experiencing lower back pain and seeking relief, contact AICA Lithia Springs today to schedule your first consultation with our team of experts.


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