Back pain is a general term for a potentially serious ailment and one of the most common medical problems in the United States. The aggravation associated with back pain can range from a dull, constant ache to sudden, sharp pains. Although about 80% of the U.S. population will experience it at some point in their lives, back pain can become so debilitating for some patients that it hinders their ability to participate in everyday activities.


Back pain can be caused by a number of factors, including:

  • Sudden accident, injury or trauma, such as a fall or lifting a heavy object improperly
  • Bone fractures
  • Muscle or ligament strains
  • Arthritis
  • Herniated discs
  • Degenerative disc disease
  • Aging
  • Obesity
  • Poor physical fitness and lack of exercise
  • Scoliosis
  • Spinal stenosis
  • Sudden, abnormal twisting
  • Osteoporosis
  • Smoking
  • Unsupportive footwear
  • Malnutrition
  • Infections
  • Stress and mental health
  • Tumors
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Occupational hazards, such as making repeated movements or doing heavy manual labor
  • Kidney infection
  • Osteomyelitis
  • Spondylitis


The pain may appear for brief periods or become a chronic issue. Symptoms vary widely, but oftentimes include:

  • Dull, constant pain, particularly after a fall or injury
  • Sharp pain, usually after an accident or traumatic event
  • Numbness, weakness and/or tingling in the affected area and associated limbs
  • Severe pain that doesn’t improve with rest and/or limited activity
  • Fever
  • Muscle aches or spasms
  • A limited range of motion
  • Weight loss
  • Localized swelling, redness and tenderness


Depending on the cause of your back pain, conservative treatments may first be recommended. These methods may include over-the-counter pain relievers, anti-inflammatory medications, physical therapy, injections and the use of heat or ice packs. Contrary to popular belief, bed rest is almost never helpful when combating back pain.

The surgical approach used will be based upon the preferences of the patient, as well as certain determining factors like obesity, the presence of extensive adhesions (scar tissue) and previous surgeries. Through surgery, herniated discs, spinal stenosis, bone spurs, pinched nerves and other spine-related problems can usually be resolved.


Prevention generally involves exercising regularly, building muscle strength and flexibility, maintaining a healthy weight and proper posture and making educated choices when buying back-related products, like mattresses and office chairs. Speak with your doctor about how you can proactively avoid back pain. Treatment of this medical condition will almost always depend on the cause, location and severity of the patient’s unique condition.