Back pain is the most common reason why people see a doctor because it affects everybody at some point in their life and it can happen with no warning.
Back pain includes the lower back, middle back, upper back, or low back pain with sciatica.
The causes of back pain are numerous. Some are self-inflicted due to a lifetime of bad habits, like carrying heavy objects incorrectly or having your back in a bent position for a long period of time, while others may include damage to the discs between the vertebrae, osteoporosis, and osteoarthritis. Trauma, such as accident or sports injuries, may also be the cause of back pain. Although the causes may be different, most often they share the same symptoms.
Symptoms of back pain may include:
- Persistent aching or stiffness anywhere along your spine, from the base of the neck to the tail bone
- 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
- 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 pain or muscle spasms in the lower back
Most back pain gets better with a few weeks of home treatment. Over-the-counter pain relievers and the use of heat or ice might be all you need.
When to be concerned
Seek immediate medical attention if:
- You feel numbness, tingling, or weakness in your groin, 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 frequent and/or urgent urination. You may have an infection.
- You begin to have problems controlling your bowels or bladder.