Causes of Back Pain

Man on couch suffering from back pain

Causes of Back Pain

On any given day, you may have a patient enter your clinic suffering from back pain. They may begin to tell you about one or several areas in their back where they’re they’re experiencing pain, and may seek guidance from you about the causes of back pain, as well as the various ways the pain can be treated.

To best prepare yourself to care for your patient, it may be helpful to get a refresher on the common causes of back pain, and the different suggestions or forms of treatment you can suggest to alleviate the pain. Below is a quick guide on the different types of back pain, the causes, and the types of treatment options available for patients.

What is Low, Middle and Upper Back Pain?

Once your patient arrives at the clinic, ask them where they are experiencing pain in their back. For example, they may have pain in their lower back, which can happen anywhere below the ribs and above their legs.1People experiencing middle and upper back pain may notice pain anywhere from the base of their neck to the bottom of their rib cage. They may describe the pain as a type of irritation or pinching.2

To further understand the pain in any region of the back, it’s important to know the way in which the back is supported via the spine. The spine is made up of small bones, known as vertebrae, which all stack on top of one another.3Muscles and ligaments hold the spine together, and, if damaged, can be one of the reasons why your patient may be experiencing back pain.2In fact, it’s more common for a person to experience lower back pain as the bones in the lower part of the back are more limber and help provide more movement to areas like the waist.2

What Can Cause Back Pain?

There are many factors to consider when trying to understand what could be causing back pain for your patient. Here are a few common causes that you can explain to your patient:

  • Overactivity – If your patient is an active person, and finds themselves doing heavy forms of exercise like lifting weights, running, or playing sports that require a lot of movement in the lower back such as softball, then they might have done something to injure their back.3Overactivity can lead to overstretched or injured muscles and ligament fibers, which can trigger pain in the back.3
  • Disk injury – When a patient tells you that their back pain hasn’t subsided after a few days, it may be worth checking out if they have experienced an injury to a disk. This tear can happen as a person ages, and the pain can happen for weeks or even months.3 Another common type of disk injury is a herniated disk. This happens when its nucleus pushes against its annulus, putting pressure on the sensitive spinal nerves and causing pain.3
  • Spinal Stenosis – This form of back pain occurs when the space that is around the spinal cord narrows and puts stress on the cord and spinal nerves.3

Common Symptoms of Back Pain

You may hear a patient talk about the types of symptoms they’re experiencing with their back. You can provide more context as to what other common symptoms people may have, including:

  • Back pain when they exert energy trying to lift or bend anything
  • Leg symptoms, such as pain, numbness, or tingling, which can happen below the knee
  • Muscle spasms

It’s important to talk with your patient to both assess the pain they’re experiencing, as well as provide guidance on the type of treatment they need for their back pain. With the proper guidance, your patient can find themselves on a path towards recovery. For more information about pain relief, check out resources on causes of pain, management options and more.

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