Back Pain

Back pain is not a disease diagnosis but a symptom of many health conditions. Additionally, lower back pain is also known as lumbago. The problems with the lower back cause pain. Examples include:

  • Intervertebral discs
  • Ligaments
  • Muscles
  • Discs
  • Nerves
  • The bony structures that the spine consists of (vertebral bodies or vertebrae)

Back pain can also appear due to organ problems such as kidneys.

Approximately 75%-85% of people will experience back pain during their lifetime, according to the American Association of Neurological Surgeons. Furthermore, roughly in 90% of cases, surgery helps to relieve the pain.


This back problem can have different symptoms. For example:

  • Aching or dull sensation in the lower back
  • Shooting or stabbing pain down the foot or leg
  • Inability to stand up without pain
  • Reduced range of motion and ability to flex back

In most cases, back pain caused by strain or misuse lasts for a short period but can last from days to weeks. It is considered that a person has chronic back pain if the symptoms occur for at least 3 months.

In some cases, back pain can be a symptom of a serious health condition. Therefore, if your back pain does not improve during 14 days, it is advised to visit a doctor. Check below some symptoms that may suggest a more serious medical issue:

  • Loss of bladder control or bowel
  • Back pain after trauma (including falls)
  • Persistent pain that worsens during nighttime
  • Tingling, weakness, or numbness of legs
  • Sudden weight loss
  • Abdominal pain
  • Fever

Inform your doctor if you experience any of the symptoms listed above or any others.


In this article, are listed the most common back pain causes. Examples include:


This is commonly the cause of back pain. Incorrect lifting of something heavy and sudden awkward movements usually provoke strain. It also can happen due to overactivity.

Structural Problems

The spine consists of vertebral bodies that connect bones and are stacked on top of one another. The tissues that cushion the spaces between vertebrae are called discs. Disc trauma is a quite common cause of back pain. In some cases, discs can herniate, rupture, or bulge and it leads to nerve compression.

A bulging disc is pressing on the nerve that goes from the back to your legs provoking sciatica (irritation of the sciatic nerve). If an individual has sciatica it will experience the following symptoms in the leg. Examples include:

  • Numbness
  • Tingling
  • Pain


Another potential back pain cause is spinal osteoarthritis. Damage to the joints in the lower back usually provokes this condition. If it is not treated, it may lead to narrowing of the spinal column or spinal stenosis.


A health condition in which a person has decreased bone density (thinning of the bone) is called osteoporosis. As a result, small fractures can occur in vertebrae. These fractures can provoke severe pain.

Other Back Pain Causes

However, back pain can also occur due to many other causes. It is advised to see a doctor if you experience back pain regularly and it does not go away. Check below for other back pain causes:

  • Degenerative spondylolisthesis (this happens when one vertebra goes onto a nearby vertebra)
  • Cauda equine syndrome (it is a serious health condition in which a person experiences a loss of nerve function in the lower spinal cord)
  • Bacterial or fungal infection of the spine (including staphylococcus, E. coli, tuberculosis, and others)
  • Spine tumors either cancerous or noncancerous
  • Kidney problems (such as stones or infections)

Risk Factors

People are at higher risk of developing back pain in the following cases. For example:

  • Do not exercise
  • Sedentary environment work
  • High-intensity activity without warming up or stretching
  • Older people
  • Obesity
  • Smoking
  • Arthritis

Furthermore, mental disorders can also elevate your risk for back pain. For example, if you experience depression or anxiety, or have a stressful job.


First, doctors will perform a physical examination to verify your:

  • Ability to walk and stand
  • Spine’s range of motion
  • Reflexes
  • Leg strength
  • Ability to feel sensations in the leg

If your doctor suspects a serious health condition that provoked your back pain, you may need to do additional tests. Examples include:

  • Electromyography (EMG)
  • Bone scans
  • CT or MRI scans
  • X-rays
  • Blood and urine tests

Consult with your physician if you have any other questions.


Usually, most people do not need long-term treatment for back pain, and over-the-counter medicines are enough. However, if your back pain is caused by a serious health condition, you may need treatment, and its duration is prescribed by doctors. Check below some treatment options:


Physicians usually prescribe nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as Ibuprofen and Naproxen. Another group of medications of pain relievers is analgesics (such as Acetaminophen). Analgesics can relieve pain in most cases although they do not have anti-inflammatory properties. Furthermore, long-term use of Ibuprofen can provoke stomach ulcers and kidney problems. Discuss with your doctor about risks and benefits of using Ibuprofen.

It is not recommended to administer an increased dose of medicines without a doctor’s approval because it may lead to worsening back pain.

Topical Rubs and Ointments

This category of medicines also is highly effective in back pain treatment. They commonly contain Ibuprofen and Lidocaine and come in the following forms. Examples include:

  • Sprays
  • Patches
  • Creams
  • Lotions
  • Gels

Muscle Relaxants

These drugs are used when an individual experiences muscle spasms along with pain. They work by acting on the central nervous system, which helps lessen pain.


Physicians can prescribe antidepressants off-label for back pain treatment. Mostly, doctors prescribe Amitriptyline to treat severe back pain. In addition, this medicine can also be effective in the treatment of nerve-related pain.

Steroid Injections

There are some back pain causes in which your physician may advise a steroid injection. One of the causes is back pain that involves a nerve.


These are strong pain drugs used if a person experiences severe back pain. These include Oxycodone, Acetaminophen, and Hydrocodone. In addition, it is not advised the long-term use of opioids because they are addictive.


This treatment method is commonly used when the patient does not respond to other treatments. Surgery is usually effective in the following cases. For example:

  • Severe and persistent pain
  • Spinal cord compression that interacts with daily activities
  • Nerve compression that provokes muscle weakness

Alternative Medications

The following therapies can help in back pain management. Examples include:

  • Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT)
  • Relaxation techniques
  • Chiropractic adjustments
  • Massage
  • Acupuncture

Before any of the previous procedures, talk with your doctor about the benefits and risks associated with them.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is it possible to prevent back pain?

Yes, with the following tips, you can prevent or lessen back pain once it happens. Examples include:

  • It is advised to carry less including laptop bags, purses, or heavy briefcases because they put additional strain on the spine and neck.
  • Regular exercise
  • Another additional strain on your back can cause poor posture. Therefore, it is recommended to remember regularly to roll back rounded shoulders.
  • Choose comfortable, supportive, and minimal shoes without elevated heels. Most back pain cases are caused by frequent wearing of high-heeled shoes.

For more details, discuss with your healthcare provider.

Can urinary tract infections cause back pain?

If you experience urinary tract infections (UTIs), you can notice back pain as well. The urinary tract is part of the body that is responsible for carrying urine. For example kidneys, ureters, urethra, bladder, and others. Check below the most common UTI symptoms:

  • Cloudy or bloody urine
  • Frequent urination
  • A burning feeling during urination
  • Urine with a strong odor

Healthcare professionals usually prescribe antibiotics to treat UTIs because they are provoked by bacterial infections.

What are the most common back pain causes?

  • Scoliosis
  • Arthritis
  • Vertebral compression fracture
  • Sprain
  • Spondylolisthesis
  • Herniated disc
  • Spinal stenosis
  • Degenerative disc disease
  • Osteoporosis

If you suspect you have any of the previous health problems, visit a doctor right away.

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