Back Pain

Written by Norene Anderson
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Lower back pain is one of the most common complaints heard by physicians today. It is second only to colds and flu symptoms. If the pain lasts a few weeks, it is identified as acute or short term. Pain lasting longer than three months is considered chronic or ongoing pain. Acute episodes of pain are the most common types of back pain and may occur several times throughout one's life.

Sometimes the cause of the pain is obvious. Lifting a heavy object or sudden movement can cause immediate pain. If you have an accident or injury, it is easy to identify the cause of the discomfort. There are, however, episodes of back pain when it is more difficult to locate the source or reason for the pain.

Osteoporosis is a condition where the body fails to produce enough new bone and the bones become brittle. There are about 10 million people in America living with this condition, while almost 20 million more have osteopenia or low bone mass. Most of these are women over 50 years of age. This condition is not usually detected unless a bone density test is done or an injury is sustained.

Disorders that Cause Back Pain

Another condition of the back that can become quite painful is scoliosis or kyphosis. Scoliosis is a side-to-side curvature of the spine and kyphosis is a front-to-back curvature, which gives the appearance of a rounded back. Either of these conditions can be congenital, or they may result from other disease processes such as muscular dystrophy or cerebral palsy.

Paget's disease or osteoarthritis may cause a condition known as spinal stenosis. This is the narrowing of the spinal canal in the cervical or lumbar region. This narrowing causes the nerve roots to be compressed resulting in intense pain. A major complication of this type of back pain is the loss of sensation in the legs or feet due to the nerve compression. An individual may have an infection in the lower extremities and not feel the pain alerting them to the need for treatment.

Fibromyalgia is a condition with many symptoms, including pain in the lower back. This is a disorder of the soft tissue and often results in deep, radiating pain. The most common reports of pain occur with joint stiffness upon rising or with increased activity. It is a diagnosis that is usually determined by the process of elimination of other possible pain sources.

Diagnosing the Source of Pain

When there are no obvious causes of back pain related to the integrity of the spinal column, other avenues of diagnostic procedures are indicated. Many diseases or medical conditions can cause severe pain in the back. Since the nerve sensations are routed through the spinal column to the brain, this conduit is a focal point for residual pain.

Some common internal causes that can result in back pain include blood clots, tumors, and abscesses in organs near the spine. Conditions such as pancreatitis, ulcers, inflammatory bowel disease, menstruation, ovarian cysts, cancer, and others can cause intense pain in the lower back. Pain is an indicator that something is not right in the body. It should not be ignored. If pain is acute or if it continues after conservative treatment, you should see your physician for an evaluation.

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