The spine is made up of small bones known as vertebrae that are stacked on top of one another, extending from the base of your skull to your buttocks. Muscles, ligaments, nerves, and intervertebral disks are all part of your spine as well.
Your spine consists of three segments, which form three natural curves when viewed from the side. The “c-shaped” curves of the neck (cervical spine) and lower back (lumbar spine) are called lordosis. The “reverse c-shaped” curve of the chest (thoracic spine) is called kyphosis.
These curves are important for balance and they help us to stand upright. It is important that these curves stay in shape, because if any one of the curves becomes too large or small, there will be problems with our standing positions and posture.
When abnormal curvatures of the spine occur (known as spinal deformity), this can result in conditions such as kyphosis of the thoracic spine (“hunchback”), lordosis of the lumbar spine (“swayback”), and “flatback syndrome,” a condition in which there is too little curvature of the spine.
Sharp Pain when Bending Forward
WHY DOES A SHARP PAIN WHEN BENDING FORWARD OCCUR?
- Lower back strain
The most common cause of a sharp pain when bending forward is due to a lower back strain. The position can put significant pressure on the lower back, causing the muscles and ligaments to stretch excessively. You could have also sustained a back strain due to physical activity, overuse of the muscles or the lack of flexibility in your body.
- Muscle spasms
Another cause of a sharp pain when bending forward is due to muscle spasms. Muscle spasms are rather common, and can happen anytime of the day, more commonly during exercise or a few days post-exercise. Common causes of muscle spasms include dehydration, overuse of muscles, lack of blood flow and nerve compression. This results in muscle spasms in the lower back when you bend down and pick up an object, and cause a sharp pain.
- Herniated discs
Having herniated discs also result in a sharp pain when bending forward. A herniated disc, also known as a slipped disc, occurs when the disc slips out of position and pushes against the spinal cord or surrounding nerve roots, resulting in a compression of the nerve root as it pushes through the vertebral bones. A herniated disc often occurs with lifting or twisting movements.
Spondylolisthesis can also cause sharp pain when bending forward. When the vertebra on the top is injured and starts shifting or slipping forward on the vertebra directly below it, it results in spondylolisthesis. Younger people who participate in sports like gymnastics and weightlifting are at higher risk. Spondylolisthesis is often the result of untreated spondylolysis, a stress fracture or crack in the small, thin portion of the vertebra that connects the upper and lower facet joints.
Other causes of pain when bending forward include arthritis due to aging and ankylosing spondylitis.
WHAT IS THE TREATMENT IF I EXPERIENCE A SHARP PAIN WHEN BENDING FORWARD?
Treatment methods for this includes:
- Resting the back
- Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as ibuprofen
- Over-the-counter pain-relief medications such as acetaminophen
- Application of ice and heat packs
- Gentle stretching exercises
- Back support such as back braces
Should you be experiencing persistent symptoms, surgery may be recommended for conditions such as a herniated disc, spondylolisthesis and arthritis.
HOW CAN SHARP PAIN WHEN BENDING FORWARD BE PREVENTED?
Self-care tips that can help reduce the risks include:
- Regular exercise
- Maintaining a healthy weight
- Adopt the proper posture when carrying or lifting objects: keep your back straight and bend your knees when picking something up, instead of bending over to pick it up
- Maintain a proper posture while sitting and standing
- Wearing back support if needed