Back Pain Causes
Identifying the source of your back pain is an important step in treating this medical condition. Often times, back pain is caused by mechanical issues, prior injuries, or another underlying medical condition, but things may not be that straightforward. If you have been struggling with chronic back pain, you may need tests or medical imaging to help identify the source of your pain.
On this page, we are going to cover four factors that could be the underlying cause of your back pain. Remember that the purpose of this page is to be educational, and it should not replace discussing your medical condition and concerns with your doctor.
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Mechanical Complications for the Back
Mechanical issues could be the result of the way your spine feels when you move it in a certain way, or they could be caused by the way you spine actually moves. The most common mechanical cause of chronic back pain is intervertebral disc degeneration, which is a natural breakdown of the discs which separate the various vertebrae. Often, this degeneration is simply the result of aging, and the spine loses some of it’s natural cushioning ability.
Another common source of back pain could be that the facet joints have been worn down. The facet joints connect all of the vertebrae together. Further mechanical problems with the back include spasms, muscle tension, and ruptured discs (also known as herniated discs).
Sprains and Spinal Fractures
A fracture or a sprain in the spine can cause both short-term and long-term chronic back pain. A fractured spine is often the result of osteoporosis, a disorder that causes the bones to become porous, and structurally weaker (sometimes severely so). On the other hand, a sprain is a tear in the ligaments that ensure the muscular strength of the spine. Strenuous activity or improper lifting technique (lifting with your back instead of your legs) can cause a sprain in the spinal cord. In some cases, back pain could be the result of a previous accident or fall.
Underlying Medical Conditions
Back pain can be caused or exacerbated by a number of complicating medical issues. Conditions like rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis, ankylosing spondylitis, spinal stenosis, and scoliosis can all lead to numerous complications with the back and spine. Although less likely, circumstances like pregnancy, kidney stones, fibromyalgia, infections, and endometriosis (this is a build-up of uterine tissue outside of the uterus) can contribute to back pain as well.
Tumors and Infections
Both tumors and infections, although more rare, could be the source of a patient’s back pain. When an infection involves the discs of the vertebrae, this can cause varying levels of pain. Likewise, a tumor that forms in the back can cause pain, especially if it starts to press against the spinal column. For these reasons, unexplained cases of back pain should always be brought up with a healthcare provider, as this could be an indication of cancer.
Most causes of back pain are physical in nature, but emotions can play a significant role with this medical condition too. If you have been dealing with an unusual level of stress in your life, this could manifest in physical pain. High levels of stress mean that the muscles of the back are tensed more often, which also increases the chances of injury. Insomnia or poor sleep quality can also exacerbate a person’s back pain, similar to depression and anxiety if they are not managed effectively. Don’t let these issues complicate your life further, there are treatments available if you choose to take action.