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Back Pain: Understanding Its Causes and Symptoms

Updated on April 19, 2013
Back pain can really pin you down if left untreated.
Back pain can really pin you down if left untreated. | Source

Types of Back Pain

On the basis of the location of pain, back pain can be divided into three broad categories: upper back pain (including neck), middle back pain and lower back pain. The condition can be acute (with a sudden onset of pain that lasts a few weeks) or chronic (when symptoms continue for more than three months).

Recognizing Back Pain Symptoms

Almost everyone experiences some pain in the back when tired. However, following symptoms call for medical intervention:

  • The pain hampers your day-to-day activities
  • The symptoms do not subside after a period of rest
  • Pain resurfaces often
  • It accompanies numbness/burning/throbbing/other uncomfortable symptoms
  • It aggravates with coughing/sneezing/change of posture

What Causes Back Pain?

Wrong posture is one of the biggest causes of back pain, but it’s not the only one. The back consists of various nerves, muscles and bones, and any injury or stress to any of these can cause back pain.

  • Back muscles support your body and are constantly under stress. With lack of rest, muscular stress causes back pain.
  • Injured back muscles, ligaments or nerve tissues cause back pain that is characterized by burning, throbbing or stabbing sensation.
  • Slip disc (herniated disc), in which one of the spinal discs (parts of spine that cushion the vertebrae) moves out of its place, also causes back pain.
  • Spondylitis is a condition caused by the inflammation of vertebrae joints. This too can lead to severe pain in and around the affected areas.
  • Osteoporosis, which occurs when bone density is reduced, weakens the bones and often causes back pain.

Other conditions that exhibit back pain symptoms, typically in seniors, include arthritis, sciatica, spinal disc degeneration and spinal stenosis (narrowing of spinal canal).

With so many conditions giving rise to back pain symptoms, it is necessary to help your healthcare provider recognize the cause of your back pain. Once that is determined, the next steps easily fall in place—the right medication, exercises and diet.


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