Types and Symptoms

Back pain presents in many forms, regardless of the root cause. Pain can affect the upper or lower back area, as well as the muscles or bone along the vertebrae. In some situations, this pain interferes with a person’s ability to function normally. Pain may be dull, sharp, aching, or pulsating. How a person experiences this pain depends on the condition that is causing it. Back pain in and of itself is not a diagnosis.  

Etiology

For some, the cause of back pain proves to be improper posture and lifting objects incorrectly. Bending at the waist, rather than from the knee, can put stress on the muscles in the lower back area. It is usually easily treated with rest and exerting correct lifting techniques moving forward. When pain is present in the upper back and shoulder area, the cause may also be related to posture. When these aren’t known causes, pain in either portion of the back may be related to a more serious issue, including pinched nerves, slipped or herniated vertebral discs, injury, osteoarthritis, or an infection within the spine. It is important to find the root cause of back pain in order to provide relief.

People with the highest risk of pain due to injury include those employed in jobs that require demanding physical labor and lifting of heavy objects on a regular basis. Those with the highest risk of pain due to osteoarthritis include older people and those with a known diagnosis. Pinched nerve pain can be the result of sleeping at an awkward angle, as can simple muscle pain in the area around the neck and shoulders. More intense back pain may need to be evaluated to look for causes such as problems with the discs along the spine. Slipped and herniated discs are often caused by age, injury, or misuse, such as suddenly turning or twisting to get to something. Most conditions can be treated with rest, medication, or physical therapy. In certain extreme situations, a doctor may recommend a surgical solution.  
 
Glossary: 
Disc: A disc is a soft shock absorbing pad located between each spinal vertebra. 
Herniated disc: A herniated disc is one that has been pushed out of place and is compressed by the vertebra above and below it.  
Osteoarthritis: Osteoarthritis is the degeneration of the cartilage and bone around the joints of the body. It is common in middle-age and beyond.  
Pinched Nerve: A pinched nerve occurs due to excess pressure being placed onto the nerve by bones, tendons, cartilage, and other tissues.  
Vertebra: A vertebra is one of the series of small bones that together make up the spinal column.  
Vertebrae: Vertebrae is the plural of a vertebra and it is the name for all 33 of the small vertebrae. 

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