Back Pain: It May Not Be What You Think

By Floria, Barbara

If you have back pain, you are probably more focused on making it stop than on finding the cause of the pain.

But back pain can be caused by many illnesses and conditions, including stress or injury, being overweight, improper lifting, pregnancy, and diseases such as fibromyalgia and arthritis, according to the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases. Learning about possible causes can help you get relief from the pain and possibly prevent it in the future.

Back sprain or strain

This kind of pain typically begins on the day after heavy physical activity. Muscles in the back, buttocks, and thighs are often sore and stiff. The back may have areas that are sore when touched or pressed.

Protruding disk

If you have disk disease, you may have severe pain in the lower back. If a disk compresses a nerve, the pain may spread down one leg, and that leg may feel weak. The pain usually gets worse during bending or twisting.

Spinal stenosis

Pain, numbness, and weakness affect the back and legs. Symptoms get worse when you stand or walk, but are relieved when you sit or lean forward.

Degenerative arthritis of the spine

In addition to back pain, you will have stiffness and difficulty bending over. These symptoms usually develop over many years.

Kidney infection

This condition typically causes sudden, intense pain just beneath the ribs on one side of the back. Your urine may be cloudy, tinged with blood, or unusually strong or foul smelling.

The duration of back pain depends on its cause. For example, if your pain is caused by strain from overexertion, you may be able to return to your normal activities gradually over a period of several days or weeks. Other conditions, such as spinal stenosis, may require surgery and longer recovery times.

What’s what?

To determine the cause of your pain and the best treatment, your health care provider will ask about your symptoms and medical history. He or she will examine your back muscles and spine to check for pain, muscle tenderness or weakness, stiffness, numbness, or abnormal reflexes.

Your symptoms and the physical examination may give your provider enough information to diagnose the problem. If your back pain is related to more serious disorders, or doesn’t improve over a few weeks, you may be referred to a specialist, such as an orthopedic surgeon, neurologist, or arthritis doctor.

The good news is more than 90 percent of people with back pain get better after conservative treatment. Only 5 percent have symptoms for more than 12 weeks, and for most of those people, the cause isn’t serious.

Medical Reviewer: Whorton, Donald, M.D. Last Annual Review Date: 2008-01-14T00:00:00-07:00 Copyright: Copyright Health Ink & Vitality Communications

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