Back Pain

Back pain is one of the most common medical problems, affecting 8 out of 10 people at some point during their lives. Back pain can range from a dull, constant ache to a sudden, sharp pain. Acute back pain comes on suddenly and usually lasts from few days to few weeks. Back pain is called chronic if it lasts for more than three months.

Mostly back pain goes away on its own, though it may take a while. Taking over-the-counter pain relievers and resting can help. However, staying in bed for more than 1 or 2 days can make it worse.

What Are the Symptoms of Back Pain?

The causes of back pain are numerous; some are self-inflicted due to a lifetime of bad habits. Other back pain causes include accidents, muscle strains, and sports injuries. Although the causes may be different, most often they share the same symptoms.

The symptoms for back pain are:

  • Persistent aching or stiffness anywhere along your spine, from the base of the neck to the hips.
  • Sharp, localized pain in the neck, upper back, or lower back -- especially after lifting heavy objects or engaging in other strenuous activity.
  • Chronic ache in the middle or lower back, especially after sitting or standing for extended periods.
  • Back pain that radiates from the low back to the buttock, down the back of the thigh, and into the calf and toes.
  • Inability to stand straight without having severe muscle spasms in the low back.

Call Your Doctor About Back Pain If:

  • You feel numbness, tingling, or loss of control in your arms or legs. This may signal damage to the spinal cord.
  • The pain in your back extends downward along the back of the leg. You may be suffering from sciatica.
  • The pain increases when you cough or bend forward at the waist. This can be the sign of a herniated disc.
  • The pain is accompanied by fever, burning during urination, or strong-smelling urine. You may have a bacterial urinary tract infection.
  • You have urine or fecal incontinence.
  • You have dull pain in one area of your spine when lying in or getting out of bed. If you are over 50 you may be suffering from osteoarthritis.

Other types of back pain

Pain in the upper back, legs, neck and shoulders can also be felt as back pain but it may be caused by another condition:

  • pain in the lower back that moves down the buttocks into one or both of the legs may be a symptom of sciatica.
  • soreness in the lower back, muscle weakness, tight muscles and loss of bladder control may be the result of a slipped disc.
  • back pain, buttock pain, swollen joints and tendons and extreme tiredness are common symptoms of ankylosing spondylitis.
  • pain in the joints (including the back) when walking and stiffness first thing in the morning are symptoms of arthritis.
  • painful stiffness of the shoulder, which makes it very difficult to dress, drive or sleep, may be a sign of frozen shoulder.
  • neck pain and stiffness, headaches and lower back pain following an accident are common symptoms of whiplash.

If your back pain is severe or doesn't improve after three days, you should call your local hospital or clinic. You should also get medical attention if you have back pain following an injury.

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Page Created: 14 March 2012