When Your Back Hurts

When your back hurts, you feel quite alone. back pain may take you away from being able to do the things you once loved, and from doing those things with the people you loved spending doing those things with. Or at least the pain and discomfort may hold you back from enjoying doing those things you used to love doing. When you are feeling the pain, you may also suffer in silence, out of the fear of not wanting to burden the people who love you with your troubles. Or you may suffer in silence with the thought that the people you would share the information with just wouldn't understand.

Despite your feeling that you are alone in your suffering, you make take some comfort in the knowledge that lower back pain is the second most common affliction of mankind; only the common cold (nasopharyngitis) affects more people. The majority of people will experience back pain at some point in their lives, as a result of muscle pulls, pregnancy, and respiratory infection. Most medical conditions and injuries that do cause back pain transient, resulting in back pain symptoms that improve within weeks. In a much smaller percentage of cases, back pain becomes a chronic problem.

Back pain is not just a problem that affects old people and the obese. Back pain affects people of all ages, sexes, activity levels, and levels of personal fitness. Also, back pain is not a condition that primarily affected people in the heavy labor occupations. In fact, sedentary occupation jobs such as office jobs are responsible for a considerable percentage of low back pain cases.

You are at risk for developing back pain if you lift, bend, reach, squat, twist, turn, or even sneeze. You are at an even greater risk of injuring your back when performing these activities while using bad posture or mechanical techniques. Some other factors that put you at an increased risk of developing pain symptoms include medical conditions, muscular deconditioning, muscular imbalances, and muscular overload.

Is it Mechanical or Medical? When your back hurts, you and your doctor will want to work as a team to find out what caused or exacerbated your condition. The cause of your symptoms may be either mechanical or medical. Mechanical back pain is pain that is caused by injury or degeneration to the main structures that move and support the spine and spinal cord. These structures may include the bones, joints, tendons, ligaments, muscles, and nerves of the lower back. Changes in body position or activity level may have the effect of increasing or decreasing pain levels caused by mechanical disorders. If your pain is the result of a lumbar herniated disc, you will feel more pain when you sit. Back pain caused by arthritis, however, may get worse upon standing or remaining standing. Mechanical back pain is rarely the cause of bowel and bladder incontinence, and will rarely require back surgery. Back pain of a mechanical origin may usually be treated effectively with time, physical therapy, and medications.

Back pain may also be the result of a medical disorder which affects more than one part of the body in addition to causing back pain as a secondary symptom. Back pain with origins of a medical nature include tumors, inflammatory conditions (e.g. rheumatoid arthritis, Ankylosing Spondylitis), and other medical conditions that impair the functioning of the lymph nodes, kidneys, bladder, gastrointestinal system, and major blood vessels of the back. Back pain related to a medical disorder usually does not get better with activity or rest.

When your back hurts, you will eventually make an appointment with your doctor when the symptoms are severe, or when it becomes apparent that it is not getting better on its own. When patients first present with back pain, either in their primary care physicians office or emergency room, doctors will first evaluate the patient for a possible medical disorder or condition that requires emergency care. Some signs and symptoms that may indicate a serious condition include:
  • Unexplained weight loss or fever
  • Pain that appears or increases upon urinating, eating, or during the female menstrual cycle
  • Severe bone pain in the middle of the back
  • Morning stiffness that continues for several hours
  • Pain that increases when lying down or into the night