Health A-Z

Back Pain

Clinical Definition

Back pain has numerous etiologies, with onset sometimes occurring after improper lifting or bending mechanics, and other times occurring due to spinal changes, such as intervertebral disc disorders. Disc injury, disc tears or herniation, spinal stenosis, scoliosis and other causes can trigger back pain, sometimes becoming chronic. Treatments include nonsurgical approaches (medication and physical rehabilitation) and surgical (disk replacement and spinal fusion).

In Our Own Words

Back pain can be acute, coming on suddenly after specific movement or injury, or can be chronic, defined as back pain that persists longer than two to four weeks. Pain that affects the back may or may not be associated with pain down the buttocks and leg, a condition known as sciatica.

Back strain is responsible for most back pain, but other causes include disc problems, osteoarthritis and narrowing of the space around the spinal column, or even less common conditions such as ankylosing spondylitis (a chronic inflammatory disease affecting the spine).

Extensive tests and imaging are usually not necessary, but medical evaluation can help pinpoint the cause of back pain and help guide the treatment approach.

Symptoms and Side Effects

  • Back pain that worsens with sitting or other movement
  • Dull, achy pain
  • Back muscle cramping and spasm

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