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Pain Library

Back Pain X-rayBack Pain

Pain in the back is a neuropathic condition caused by a lesion or dysfunction of the central nervous system (+spinal cord and spinal nerves). Experts contend that more than 80% of the American adult population will experience pain in the back at some point in their life.

There are many causes of pain in the back including muscle strain (the most common), ligament sprain, fibromyalgia (fatigue and pain in the muscles, ligaments and tendons); herniated or ruptured disc; osteoarthritis; and osteoporosis (compression fractures of the vertebrae), trauma, and, some instances, pain caused by flawed diagnostic and/or surgical procedures (iatrogenic pain).

FAQs on Back Pain

Is there more than one type of pain in the back?

There are two basic types of pain in the back. One is mechanical back pain that results from of inflammation of the joints of the spine and the strain and sprain of the muscles and ligaments of the spine. Pain down the leg following the course of a specific nerve root is a result of irritation or pressure on that nerve root. The other is non-mechanical pain in the back caused by medical conditions such as infection, tumor and abdominal aortic aneurysm.

Why is pain in the back so prevalent?

There are numerous causes of pain in the back. Some of the more common reasons include traumatic injury from accidents and falls; physically stressful work and recreational activities that cause muscle strain and sprain; sedentary lifestyle/lack of exercise; diet – excessive weight/obesity or excessive weight loss; improper lifting technique; structural spine problems such as arthritis, osteoporosis, herniated discs, scoliosis; muscle spasm; and, spinal tumors and infection. In some cases, pain in the back can also be caused stress, anxiety, depression, and other psychogenic factors.

Which type of pain is most common?

Acute pain is by far the most common type of pain. This short-lasting pain can often be resolved through the use of over-the-counter, anti-inflammatory medications (cortisone, aspirin, etc.), bed rest, hydrotherapy, massage, manipulation, physical therapy and exercise, sufficient time for the body to heal itself, and, in some cases, minimally invasive or open surgery.

It is important to keep in mind if you are experiencing pain in the back that it is wise to consult a back and neck specialist so that a proper treatment regimen can be determined.

Gary Kraus, MD,
Neurosurgeon, is Board Certified
Meet Gary Kraus, MD
Masaki Oishi, MD,
Spine Fellowship at the University
Meet Gary Kraus, MD
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