Back pain is one of the most common reasons people go to the doctor. Home treatment and proper body mechanics often will heal your back. Millions of Americans have ongoing back pain. It's the leading cause of disability in people younger than 45, and many things can cause it. Lower back pain is a common cause for visits to the doctor. According to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS).
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Degenerative changes are more frequent in the lumbar lower spine and the cervical neck region of the spine. Degenerative disc disease of the spine may cause chronic ongoing low back pain, interspersed with more painful flare-ups from time to time.
The pain is often worse when sitting, as the back is carrying more load in that position, and the pain may be relieved by standing up, changing positions or lying down. With ageing, bone spurs - tiny growths on the edges of the bones of the spine - may also occur. These bone spurs osteophytes are usually smooth and may not cause any pain. However, sometimes the bulging part can press on a nerve and cause pain, tingling and other problems, such as weakness.
Inflammation from the site may also contribute to symptoms. Prolapsed discs like this can be the cause of sciatica. The discs in the lumbar spine are most likely to herniate - these are the discs between the 5 lumbar vertebrae - L1 to L5. Most people with symptoms will improve in 2 weeks. Facet joint problems are common causes of back pain and the resulting condition is commonly referred to as facet joint pain or facet joint syndrome. The facet joints are small stabilising joints between and behind the vertebrae of the spine.
There are 2 facet joints between each 2 vertebrae at every level of the spine except the very top vertebrae in the neck. The facet joints in the lumbar region allow only flexion and extension, so no twisting. Over time, facet joints can wear out, and with wear and tear the cartilage can become thin, leading to the bones rubbing on each other.
This osteoarthritis leads to inflammation and pain, and bone spurs can form on the surface of the bone. As the intervertebral discs become thinner with age, more pressure still is put on the facet joints.
Facet joints can also slip dislocate and become locked in position. Locked facet joints happen suddenly, for example when a person bends down to tie a shoelace and then experiences that their back seizes up. Problems with facet joints can be unpredictable. Symptoms of facet joint problems include tenderness over the affected facet joint, decreased movement and stiffness, pain when bending backwards and pain in the buttock or radiating down thigh but not beyond knee.
Spinal stenosis can be caused by degeneration of other structures in the back, such as the facet joints or discs, for example by bone spurs or herniated discs. Some people inherit a small spinal canal in the first place. Symptoms of spinal stenosis often start slowly and worsen over time. If you have symptoms like these, you must visit a doctor.
Ankylosing spondylitis is a type of arthritis affecting the spine. The cause is not known, but there is a strong inherited component to the disease. The symptoms of ankylosing spondylitis are lower back pain and stiffness especially first thing in the morning , tiredness and pain over the buttocks and down the thigh.
The pain tends to ease as the day goes on. Rest does not help back pain from ankylosing spondylitis. Ankylosing spondylitis also causes pain and arthritis in other joints of the body, other than the spine. Spondylolisthesis is when one of your vertebrae slips forwards or backwards out of its normal alignment, causing a step in the building blocks of the spine.
It most commonly affects one of the lumbar vertebrae in the lower back. If the slipped vertebra presses on a nerve, then you may have symptoms of sciatica - tingling down your leg and over your buttock. People with spondylolisthesis often have tight hamstrings.
Spondylolisthesis may be due to a fracture or a defect that is inherited. It may be caused by a traumatic injury, such as from high-impact sports e. If the spine has become worn and arthritic, then spondylolisthesis is more likely. Problems with the sacro-iliac joints - the 2 joints that join your sacrum tailbone to your pelvis - can give rise to low back pain. You have a sacroiliac joint on the left and one on the right of your sacrum the triangular shaped bone at the base of your spine.
They function as shock absorbers. If the joints are abnormally mobile too much movement or restricted in movement they can give rise to low back pain. The SI joints may also become inflamed called sacroiliitis. Symptoms of sacro-iliac joint pain include low back pain, leg pain but rarely below the knee , pain in the sacro-iliac region itself or in the buttocks. There may be muscle spasms of surrounding muscles as they try to protect themselves or respond to underlying damage.
Cauda equina syndrome is a medical emergency caused by compression of the spinal nerve roots. These nerve roots supply messages to your legs, feet and pelvic organs. Anything that compromises the nerves can affect the function of your bladder, bowel, legs and feet and could result in paralysis or loss of continence.
Symptoms of cauda equina syndrome may come and go, developing slowly over time, or come on suddenly and include:. If you develop any of these symptoms, you should visit a doctor or the emergency department straightaway. CES can be caused by a severe rupture of a lumbar disc, spinal stenosis, spine injury, inflammation or a birth defect.
Osteoporosis - a condition causing spongy bones - can cause sudden compression fractures cracks of the vertebrae. These osteoporotic compression fractures usually affect the vertebrae of the thoracic upper spine, but may also affect the lumbar lower vertebrae.
They cause sudden back pain when they happen and can lead to ongoing pain, pain that is worse when standing or walking, and loss of height.
Vertebral fractures such as this are common in postmenopausal women and older men. Spondylolysis is a type of fracture or stress fracture in the vertebrae. It often affects young athletes who do sports such as gymnastics or football.
Whilst the fractures sometimes spontaneously heal, they may not heal correctly and can cause ongoing back pain. Mostly there are no symptoms in young people with spondylolysis, but symptoms can include lower back pain which may extend into the buttocks or legs. Spondylolysis is a common cause of spondylolisthesis mentioned earlier where one vertebra slips out of position over another. Conversely, in older people with spondylolisthesis, this can lead to uneven loading of the facet joint, causing a compression fracture.
Cancer is a rare cause of back pain. Tumours affecting the spine are usually secondary cancers that have spread from the primary tumour somewhere else in the body.
Most uncomplicated back pain resolves after a period of active recovery and people are generally back to normal within 4 weeks. See your doctor if you are at all concerned about your back pain, and especially if any of the following occur:.
Active recovery includes trying to do normal activities as much as possible and keeping active. Gentle walking , which improves blood flow and speeds up healing, can help.
Doctors now know that inactivity and rest will lead to stiffness and more pain and is more likely to lead to ongoing back problems. Careful stretching may help relax muscles, especially if you have muscle spasms.
You may find that sleeping with a pillow between your legs can make night-times more comfortable. Over-the-counter painkillers such as paracetamol or anti-inflammatories, e. If they are suitable for you, anti-inflammatories may be more effective than paracetamol.
Make sure you take the recommended dose. These medicines are not suitable for everyone, so always check with your doctor or pharmacist. Topical pain relievers are applied to the skin at the site of the pain.
They are creams or ointments, usually. Some use the same ingredients that are in the tablet forms of over the counter pain relievers, such as ibuprofen or aspirin. Others have ingredients such as capsaicin, a compound from chilli peppers, or menthol. Depending on the circumstances of your back pain, your doctor may prescribe other painkillers, antidepressants or other medicines.
There is no evidence to support using muscle relaxants to treat low back pain. Oxycodone prescribed as Endone or Oxycontin is a strong painkiller belonging to the opioid group of medicines and is sometimes prescribed for back pain.
Oxycodone can lead to addiction if used for long periods and also carries the risk of overdose. Whilst it may be effective in the short term for sudden onset of back pain, oxycodone is not recommended long term and there is no evidence for it being effective in the long term. Codeine is another strong painkiller, sometimes used in the short term for back pain.
Codeine is another opioid and can also lead to addiction. Hot or cold packs may help with the pain as may sitting in a warm bath. Heat loosens tight muscles and increases blood flow, bringing more oxygen and nutrients to the area. Cold can help reduce pain and swelling. Cold is usually used in the beginning stages of an injury.
Exercise programs - A physiotherapist or osteopath should be able to help you with an exercise programme to improve mobility, reduce pain, prevent further injury and help with recovery from back pain.
Worry and anxiety about back pain can make the pain worse. Acupuncture - there is no evidence to show that acupuncture has any effect in improving low back pain, however, it is unlikely to be harmful. Conditions commonly linked to back pain include:. Anyone can develop back pain, even children and teens. These factors might put you at greater risk of developing back pain:. You might avoid back pain or prevent its recurrence by improving your physical condition and learning and practicing proper body mechanics.
Because back pain is so common, numerous products promise prevention or relief. But there's no definitive evidence that special shoes, shoe inserts, back supports, specially designed furniture or stress management programs can help. In addition, there doesn't appear to be one type of mattress that's best for people with back pain. It's probably a matter of what feels most comfortable to you. Our patients tell us that the quality of their interactions, our attention to detail and the efficiency of their visits mean health care like they've never experienced.
See the stories of satisfied Mayo Clinic patients. After years of chronic back pain, Guy Gottschalk was not optimistic that he would ever find relief. But a visit to Mayo Clinic not only significantly reduced his pain, it gave him the motivation to make important lifestyle changes that dramatically improved his health.
When he had his first appointment in Mayo Clinic's Division of [ Mayo Clinic does not endorse companies or products. Advertising revenue supports our not-for-profit mission. This content does not have an English version. This content does not have an Arabic version. Overview Back pain is one of the most common reasons people go to the doctor or miss work, and it is a leading cause of disability worldwide.
Lower back pain is the most common type of back pain or backache. Simple pain relief or treatment includes a back rub and pain killers.
Learn about low back pain as a musculoskeletal pain condition to identify how you can approach low back pain in your co-management treatment plan. Read more on SA Health website. Lower back pain occurs in the area known as the lumbar spine. It may be acute or chronic depending on whether it persists for longer than three months.
Do you have back pain? Read more on Musculoskeletal Australia website. To see how well paracetamol works for non-specific low back pain LBP. Non-specific LBP is back pain for which there is no identified disease or condition.
To determine the effects of the Pilates method for patients with non-specific acute, subacute or chronic low back pain. Background Low back pain is a widespread problem that has major social and economic consequences. Chronic low back pain can come from any part of the back that has a nerve supply capable of transmitting pain signals. These sources include discs, vertebrae, sacroiliac joints, facet joints, muscles, ligaments and other structures.
Pain specialists try to identify the source of low back pain by using nerve blocks. They numb individual spinal nerves with anaesthetic injections to see if this leads to improvement in back symptoms. With substantial pain relief, they attempt to eliminate pain for a longer time by heating the spinal nerves with radiofrequency waves to ensure that the pain stimulus cannot be passed.
This invasive procedure is called radiofrequency denervation. At this time, the effectiveness of this approach has not been proven. We assessed the evidence regarding the effect of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs NSAIDs among people with chronic low back pain.
Muscle relaxants are effective for short-term symptomatic relief in patients with acute and chronic low back pain. However, the incidence of drowsiness, dizziness and other side effects is high. Muscle relaxants must be used with caution and it must be left to the discretion of the physician to weigh the pros and cons and to determine whether or not a specific patient is a suitable candidate for a course of muscle relaxants.
What is causing this pain in my back?
There are multiple potential causes for back pain. Here are some of the more common causes, although this is not an exhaustive list. Find out about the causes of back pain, including some of the medical conditions that can cause it. There are equally as many treatments for back pain, including Back pain is a common reason for absence from work and for seeking medical.