When someone presents with low back pain, the diagnosis can be one of many things. Most commonly, the problem can be due to a lumbar spine joint injury, disc injury or a muscle strain. Less commonly, you can get low back pain from an infection like a urinary tract or kidney infection, bowel issues, uterine fibroids, ovarian cysts, tumors of the spine or spinal cord, or muscle tears, to name a few.

Let’s take a look at the symptoms of two of the most common low back pain sources, a joint injury vs a disc injury.

Symptoms of a Joint Injury

  1. Localized unilateral low back pain.

  2. Lack of shooting leg pain

  3. Relief with sitting, or lying down

  4. Pain relief with flexion,

  5. Increased pain with extension

  6. Referred pain stays above the knee


Symptoms of a disc injury



  1. Low back pain with or without leg pain when tension is applied to the nervous system, i.e straight leg raise, or bending your chin towards your chest.
  2. Pain first thing in the morning
  3. Pain with prolonged sitting or standing
  4. Numbness/tingling in a specific pattern down the leg, loss of sensation or muscle weakness
  5. Pain increases in the low back with a cough, sneeze or bowel movement
Quick test at home to differentiate a disc from a joint injury:

The first thing you can do is go through the symptoms as listed above for both a joint injury and a disc injury.  The next thing you can do is a standing extension and rotation test.  While standing with hands on your hips, turn to the side of pain and then bend backwards.  Does this increase the pain?  Low back pain in the absence of increased leg pain with this test, would indicate more of a joint injury.  Reach forward and try to touch your toes while keeping your knees straight.  Does this bring on low back pain and shooting leg pain?  If you answered yes, then this would most likely indicate some degree of disc injury. 

Please keep in mind that these tests would need to be confirmed by a healthcare provider and they do not rule out more serious causes of low back pain or leg pain.       

If you are experiencing low back pain with or without leg pain, please book in with us to discuss your symptoms in more detail.