What causes backache?
Major causes of backache include mechanical and other injuries, congenital and acquired disorders, infectious disorders, or tumors.
Mechanical causes of backache
Backache may be caused by mechanical changes or injury. Mechanical changes are changes in the way you move your spine and are caused by weight changes, obstructions, or other physical changes that are either impeding movement or causing pain. Mechanical or traumatic causes of backache include:
- Bone spurs
- Exercise or sports injury
- Fractured vertebra
- Herniated disc
- Intervertebral disc degeneration (loss of cushioning effect of the discs between vertebrae)
- Ligament sprains (tears)
- Muscle spasm or tension, including stress-induced tension
- Poor physical condition or failure to practice ergonomic principles to protect the musculoskeletal frame in the workplace
Congenital and acquired disorder causes of backache
Backache may be caused by inflammatory, congenital, or degenerative disorders including:
- Ankylosing spondylitis (inflammation of joints between the vertebrae of the spine)
- Discitis (infection of an intervertebral disc)
- Fibromyalgia (chronic condition that causes pain, stiffness and tenderness)
- Osteomyelitis (infection of bone)
- Osteoporosis (thinning and weakening of the bones)
- Rheumatoid arthritis (chronic autoimmune disease characterized by joint inflammation)
- Scoliosis (abnormal curvature of the spine)
- Spinal stenosis (narrowing of the spinal canal, creating pressure on the spinal cord or nerves)
- Spondylosis (spinal degeneration)
Serious or life-threatening causes of backache
In some cases, backache may be a symptom of a serious or life-threatening condition that should be immediately evaluated in an emergency setting. These include:
- Ankylosing spondylitis complications
- Epidural abscess (localized infection along the spinal canal)
- Kidney stones
- Pyelonephritis (kidney infection)
- Tumors (benign or malignant)
Questions for diagnosing the cause of backache
To diagnose your condition, your doctor or licensed health care practitioner will ask you several questions related to your backache including:
- How long have you had your backache? Have you noticed any change or progression since it first began?
- Where exactly do you feel pain? Does anything in particular seem to bring it on?
- Do you experience any tingling, numbness, or loss of sensation in any part of your body?
- Have you experienced episodes of weakness in any of your muscles?
- How is your balance? Any trouble with coordination?
- Have you had any episodes of loss of bowel or bladder control?
- Have you had a stiff neck or stiffness in your spine?
- Have you had any hip or buttock pain, or a feeling of pain shooting down the back of your leg?
What are the potential complications of backache?
Because backache 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:
- Eventual reduced flexibility and mobility
- Loss of bladder or bowel control
- Permanent loss of sensation
- Permanent nerve damage
- Permanent or chronic pain
- Progressive weakness
- Spread of cancer
- Spread of infection
NINDS back pain information page. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. http://www.ninds.nih.gov/disorders/backpain/backpain.htm. Accessed May 15, 2011.
Back pain. National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases. http://www.niams.nih.gov/Health_Info/Back_Pain/default.asp. Accessed May 15, 2011.
What is backache?
Backache is one of the most common medical complaints, particularly among adults. Backache usually refers to pain in your muscles, intervertebral joints, spinal nerves, or sometimes bone-on-bone pain. The type of pain you are having can help your physician pinpoint the cause.... Read more about backache introduction