Back Pain Overview

Back pain varies in location, from the lower, middle or upper areas and can occur with sciatic nerve symptoms. Unfortunately, as many as 80 percent of Americans suffer with this problem at least once in their lifetime.

Back pain can be very debilitating causing a compromise to daily activities, including absenteeism from work or school. It affects children, teens and adults. People suffering from psychological conditions like anxiety or depression have a higher risk.

Symptoms of back pain include:

• Muscle spasms to any of the muscle groups
• Stiffness and ache along the spine from the neck to the base
• Stabbing pain when lifting heavy objects
• Chronic throbbing in the mid or lower back after sitting or standing for prolonged periods of time
• Difficulty standing erect

Causes of back pain include:

• Bulging or ruptured disks between the vertebrae of the spine, pressing on a nerve
• Strain of muscles and ligaments from sudden unwieldy motions or heavy lifting
• Arthritis leading to narrowing around the spinal cord
• Compression fractures of vertebrae from brittle states like osteoporosis
• Structural irregularities of the spine, as in abnormal curvature (e.g. in severe scoliosis)
• Inflammation or infections of the kidneys, pancreas, pelvic organs
• Aneurysm (chronic mid back pain)
• Obesity, causing continual strain on back muscles
• Metastatic cancer to the spine (this is chronic and severe pain)


Written by Barbara Hales, MD

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