Back Pain

Back Pain Causes and Treatments

Back pain is experienced by millions of individuals worldwide. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report that about 75 percent of men and women throughout the world will suffer from back pain during their lifetime. Although there is a broad range of back pain causes, the pain itself generally falls into one of two categories: nociceptive or neuropathic.

Back Pain

Nociceptive Pain

Nociceptive pain is generally associated with an injury or disease outside the nervous system. It is almost always described as continuous pressure or a dull ache, rather than burning pain or sharp stabbing pain. For example, osteoarthritis often results in nociceptive back pain.


Other types of back pain are neuropathic in origin. Also called neuropathy, this type of pain is caused by damage to nerve tissues. It is described by numerous individuals as a burning or stabbing pain. One example of such pain is what is referred to as a “pinched nerve.” In certain instances, a patient may experience both kinds of pain simultaneously, depending on the condition or disease responsible for the symptom.

Chronic Versus Acute Back Pain

Lower back pain and other types of back discomfort may be chronic or acute. The latter refers to pain that is transient, meaning it comes and goes, while the former describes pain that never permanently dissipates. Acute pain is typically due to an injury such as a pulled muscle, and is often treated with hot or cold compresses and over-the-counter pain medication or topical ointments.

Back pain of a chronic nature is often more difficult to treat, as it is typically the result of an underlying disorder that is essentially permanent. For this reason, chronic back pain medication is usually prescribed by a physician, and may include nonsteroidal anti-inflammatorys, opioid analgesics or drugs specifically developed for nerve pain, such as Neurontin.

Back Pain Causes

Although there are hundreds of causes of both upper back pain and lower back pain, below are the most common reasons for such symptoms:

  • Osteoporosis
  • Degenerative discs and herniated discs
  • Spinal Stenosis
  • Degenerative disc disease
  • Cervical radiculopathy
  • Muscle strain
  • Injury
  • Spasms
  • Osteoarthritis
  • Ankylosing spondylitis
  • Scoliosis
  • Pregnancy
  • Gallstones
  • Endometriosis
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Kidney Stones
  • Osteomyelitis

Pain may also be idiopathic in nature, which means that medical professionals are unable to find the underlying cause of the problem. Rarely, cancer is the cause of such pain. However, the back pain cancer patients feel is typically accompanied by additional symptoms.

Back Pain Relief

Although some conditions that cause back discomfort are not reversible, back pain relief is possible for a large majority of those who suffer from this symptom. The medications mentioned above, physical therapy, chiropractic care and lifestyle changes are often very helpful with regard to lessening the frequency and severity of one’s symptoms. Surgery may also be recommended, depending on which of the back pain causes is at the root of one’s discomfort, but only if more conservative treatments have proved unsuccessful.

It is never wise to ignore back pain of any kind. Instead, one should make an appointment with a licensed health care professional to have the source of his or her pain properly evaluated.