What causes back burning sensation?

Back burning sensations can be due to a variety of physical causes or underlying conditions. For example, back burning sensations may be due to actual burns on the back. Alternatively, they may be due to an underlying disorder that affects the nervous system, causing the nerves in the back to produce burning sensations.

Causes of back burning sensations originating in the back

Back burning sensations may be caused by events or conditions originating in the back including:

  • Burns, including thermal, chemical, electrical, or radiation burns and sunburn
  • Degenerative disc disease (caused by wear and tear and the effects of aging on the spine)
  • Muscle sprain
  • Muscle strain
  • Nerve entrapment or compression
  • Spinal cord injury or tumor

Other conditions or diseases that cause back burning sensations

Back burning sensations can also be caused by conditions or diseases that are systemic including:

  • Alcoholic neuropathy (nerve damage associated with excessive alcohol consumption)
  • Diabetic neuropathy (nerve damage due to high blood sugar levels associated with diabetes)
  • Encephalitis (inflammation and swelling of the brain due to a viral infection or other causes)
  • Multiple sclerosis (disease that affects the brain and spinal cord causing weakness, coordination, balance difficulties, and other problems)
  • Rheumatoid arthritis (chronic autoimmune disease characterized by joint inflammation)
  • Shingles (herpes zoster)
  • Systemic lupus erythematosus (disorder in which the body attacks its own healthy cells and tissues)
  • Transverse myelitis (neurological disorder causing inflammation of the spinal cord)
  • Vitamin deficiencies

Serious or life-threatening causes of back burning sensations

In some cases, back burning sensations may be a symptom of a serious or life-threatening condition that should be immediately evaluated in an emergency setting. These include:
    • Broken bones
    • Epidural abscess (infection around the spinal cord)
    • Severe burns
    • Spinal cord compression due to tumor or other factors

      Questions for diagnosing the cause of back burning sensations

      To diagnose your condition, your doctor or licensed health care practitioner will ask you several questions related to your back burning sensations including:

      • When did you first experience these sensations?
      • Have you recently injured (including sprained or strained) your back?
      • Are the sensations made worse or better depending on what you do?
      • Are they located at a specific spot in the back, or generally throughout the back?
      • Are you taking any medications?
      • Do you have a history of back problems?
      • Do you have any other symptoms?

        What are the potential complications of back burning sensations?

        Back burning sensations may be due to serious underlying conditions or diseases that should be promptly treated. Because back burning sensations can be due to serious diseases, failure to seek treatment can result in serious complications and permanent damage. Once the underlying cause is diagnosed, it is important for you to follow the treatment plan that you and your health care professional design specifically for you to reduce the risk of potential complications including:

        • Disability
        • Permanent nerve damage (due to a pinched nerve), including paralysis
        • Spread of cancer
        • Spread of infection
        • Unconsciousness and coma


        1. Burns. Medline Plus, a service of the National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health. http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/burns.html.
        2. NINDS paresthesia information page. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. http://www.ninds.nih.gov/disorders/paresthesia/paresthesia.htm.

        What is a back burning sensation?

        Back burning sensations are any sensations anywhere on the back that elicit a feeling of warmth or heat and may or may not be accompanied by pain. Back burning sensation may also be accompanied by a wide variety of other symptoms, some of which may include feelings of tingling or numbness (paresthesia) or itching.
        ... Read more about back burning sensationintroduction


        What other symptoms might occur with back burning sensations?

        Back burning sensations may accompany other symptoms, which will vary depending on the underlying disease, disorder or condition. These underlying conditions may also cause symptoms in other locations in the body.

        Other back symptoms that may occur along with back burning sensations

        Back burning sensations may accompany other symptoms affecting the back including:
        ... Read more about back burning sensationsymptoms

        Medical Reviewer: Cynthia Haines, MD Last Annual Review Date: Jul 30, 2013 Copyright: © Copyright 2014 Health Grades, Inc. All rights reserved. May not be reproduced or reprinted without permission from Health Grades, Inc. Use of this information is governed by the HealthGrades User Agreement.

        This Article is Filed Under: Injuries and Wounds

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