There are many causes of pain in the back. Symptoms in the low back can be a result of problems in the bony lumbar spine, discs between the vertebrae, ligaments around the spine and discs, spinal cord and nerves, muscles of the low back, internal organs of the pelvis and abdomen, and the skin covering the lumbar area. Pains in the upper back can also be a result of disorders of the aorta, chest tumors, and inflammation of spine.
Common causes of lower back pain include strain injury from athletics or overuse, disc herniation, kidney infection, pinched nerve in the spine, and pregnancy. Less common causes of back pain include infection of the spine, ankylosing spondylitis with lumbosacral and sacroiliac joint disease, compression fracture of a spinal vertebra, disc ligament tear (annular tear), and spinal tumor or cancer in the bone of the spine.
Symptoms that can be associated with low back pain include
- dull ache,
- sharp pain,
- pulsating pain,
- pain with movement of the spine,
- pins and needles sensation,
- muscle spasm,
- sciatica with shooting pain down one or both lower extremities,
- rash, and
- loss of continence of bowel or bladder.
Kasper, D.L., et al., eds. Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine, 19th Ed. United States: McGraw-Hill Education, 2015.
Pictures, Images, Illustrations & Quizzes
11 Exercises for Lower Back Pain Relief
One of the best low back pain treatments is exercise. Learn more about low back pain exercises--what works, and what doesn't....
Back Pain Quiz: Test Your Back Pain IQ
There are numerous causes of chronic lower back pain and only one ailment gets more complaints. What is it? Quiz your knowledge...
Back Pain: Find Relief, Treat Your Back Pain
Back pain conditions are very common. Learn the truth and get the facts behind myths, remedies, causes and treatment for back...
Low Back Pain: Symptoms, Causes, Treatment, Relief
Do you suffer from low back pain? Watch this slideshow to see common triggers of lower back pain and what kind of treatments you...
Sciatica Symptoms, Causes, Treatments
Sciatica pain radiates from the lower back toward the feet. Sciatica may feel like a cramp in the leg, burning, tingling, pins...
Sports Injuries: Types, Treatments, and Prevention
Learn about common sports injuries types, treatments, and prevention. Can you heal a pulled muscle in the back, neck, lower back...
Causes of Back Pain
Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm (Symptoms, Repair, Surgery, Survival Rate)
Abdominal aortic aneurysm is a ballooning or widening of the main artery (the aorta) as it courses down through the abdomen. Most...
Angiomyolipomas are noncancerous tumors that are typically found in the kidney, but may occur in the liver, ovary, colon, or...
Ankylosing spondylitis is a type of arthritis that causes chronic inflammation of the spine. The tendency to develop ankylosing...
Are You Too Sick to Work?
When you're not feeling well, it may be difficult to decide whether to stay home or go to school or work. Conditions that are...
Blood In Semen
Blood in semen is also known as hematospermia. Blood in semen can be caused by many conditions affecting the tubes that...
Bone cancer is a rare type of cancer that occurs in cells that make up the bones. Primary bone cancer that arises in bone cells...
Broken Bone (Types of Bone Fractures)
A broken bone is a fracture. There are different types of fractures, such as: compressed, open, stress, greenstick,...
The bacteria Brucella causes brucellosis, an infectious zoonotic disease in humans. Symptoms and signs include fatigue, fever,...
Coccydynia (Tailbone Pain)
Coccydynia is an inflammation of the bony area (tailbone or coccyx) located between the buttocks. Coccydynia is associated with...
Degenerative Disc Disease & Sciatica
Degenerative disc disease makes the disc more susceptible to herniation (rupture) which can lead to localized or radiating pain....
Dengue fever is contracted from the bite of a striped Aedes aegypti mosquito. Symptoms and signs of dengue include headache,...
Diffuse Idiopathic Skeletal Hyperostosis
Diffuse idiopathic skeletal hyperostosis (DISH or Forestier's disease) is a form of degenerative arthritis. It is characterized...
Endometriosis (Symptoms, Causes, Treatments, and Prognosis)
Endometriosis implants are most commonly found on the ovaries, the Fallopian tubes, outer surfaces of the uterus or intestines,...
Esophageal cancer is a disease in which malignant cells form in the esophagus. Risk factors of cancer of the esophagus include...
Fabry Disease (Symptoms and Life Expectancy)
Fabry disease (Fabry's disease, alpha-galactosidase-A) is a genetic disorder with symptoms such as burning sensations in...
Fibromyalgia is a chronic pain condition characterized by symptoms such as fatigue, sleep disturbances, and tender points. Stress...
Flatfoot (Pes Planus)
Flatfoot is a disorder in which the foot's entire sole is touching the ground while standing. Symptoms and signs of flatfoot...
Head and Neck Cancer
Head and neck cancer is cancer of the oral cavity, salivary glands, paranasal sinuses and nasal cavity, pharynx, larynx, or lymph...
A herniated disc may be caused by injury or degeneration from age. Symptoms depend on the location of the herniation and whether...
Kidney stones are solid masses of crystalline material that form in the kidneys. Symptoms of kidney stones can include pain,...
Kyphosis is defined as an outward curvature of the thoracic spine (upper back). Abnormal kyphosis results in the appearance of a...
Lassa fever is a viral hemorrhagic fever that causes flu-like symptoms. Ribavirin is the standard treatment for Lassa fever....
Lumbar Spinal Stenosis
Lumbar stenosis can be caused by degenerative arthritis (the most common cause), tumor, infection, or metabolic disorders...
Multiple myeloma is a form of cancer that develops in plasma cells, the white blood cells that make antibodies. Symptoms include...
Muscle spasms are involuntary muscle contractions that come on suddenly and are usually quite painful. Dehydration, doing...
Neck Pain (Cervical Pain)
Neck pain (cervical pain) may be caused by any number of disorders and diseases. Tenderness is another symptom of neck pain....
Osteoarthritis is a type of arthritis caused by inflammation, breakdown, and eventual loss of cartilage in the joints. Also...
Learn about osteoporosis, a condition characterized by the loss of bone density, which leads to an increased risk of bone...
Paget's disease is a chronic bone disorder due to irregular breakdown and formation of bone tissue. Symptoms of Paget's disease...
Pancreatic cancer is a malignant tumor of the pancreas. Pancreatic cancer has been called a "silent" disease because early...
A pilonidal cyst is a cyst that forms near the cleft of the buttocks. The cysts are thought to be caused by the penetration of...
Piriformis syndrome may develop if the piriformis muscle spasms and compresses the sciatic nerve. This causes buttock pain that...
Pregnancy (Week By Week, Trimesters)
Signs and symptoms of pregnancy vary by stage (trimester). The earliest pregnancy symptom is typically a missed period, but...
Prostatitis vs. BPH (Enlarged Prostate) Differences and Similarities
Prostatitis and BPH (benign prostatic hyperplasia, enlarged prostate gland) are both conditions of the prostate gland. There...
Psoriatic arthritis is a disease that causes skin and joint inflammation. Symptoms include painful, stiff, and swollen joints,...
Reactive arthritis is a chronic, systemic rheumatic disease characterized by three conditions, including conjunctivitis, joint...
Sciatica pain, caused by irritation of the sciatic nerve, typically radiates from the low back to behind the thigh to below the...
Scoliosis causes an abnormal curvature of the spine. When the cause of scoliosis is unknown the disorder is described based on...
Shingles, or herpes zoster, is a painful rash caused by the varicella zoster virus. Other shingles symptoms include headache,...
The five types of spondylolisthesis include dysplastic, isthmic, degenerative, traumatic, and pathologic. The most common symptom...
Sprains and Strains
An injury to a ligament is called a sprain, and an injury to muscle or tendon is called a strain. Sprains and strains may be...
Testicular cancer symptoms include a painless lump or swelling in a testicle, testicle or scrotum pain, a dull ache in the...
Typhus is a disease caused by Rickettsia bacteria. Symptoms and signs include fever, headache, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and...
Vancomycin-Resistant Enterococci (VRE)
Vancomycin-resistant enterococci (VRE) infection is the most common type of infection acquired by patients while hospitalized....
Yellow fever is an infectious disease transmitted by infected mosquitoes. Side effects are rare with the yellow fever vaccine....
Other Causes of Back Pain
- Bleeding Into Pelvis
- Dissection of the Aorta
- Infection of the Spine or Pelvis
- Metastatic Cancer
- Virus Infections
Examples of Medications for Back Pain
- carisoprodol (Soma)
- celecoxib (Celebrex)
- codeine (for Pain)
- cyclobenzaprine (Flexeril, Amrix, Fexmid)
- diflunisal, Dolobid
- fenoprofen, Nalfon
- flurbiprofen (Ansaid is a discontinued brand)
- hydrocodone and ibuprofen, Vicoprofen
- hydrocodone/acetaminophen, Vicodin, Vicodin ES, Vicodin HP, Anexsia, Lortab, Lorcet, Lorcet Plus, No
- ibuprofen (Advil, Children's Advil/Motrin, Medipren, Motrin, Nuprin, PediaCare Fever, and others)
- ketoprofen (Discontinued brands: Nexcede, Orudis, Oruvail, Actron)
- nabumetone, Relafen (Discontinued)
- naproxen (Aleve, Anaprox, Naprelan, Naprosyn)
- Nonsteroidal Antiinflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs)
- OTC Pain Relievers and Fever Reducers
- piroxicam, Feldene
- propoxyphene, Darvon, Darvon-N, Dolene
- rofecoxib, Vioxx
- tolmetin, Tolectin (Discontinued Brand)
- Tramadol: for Pain (Ultram, Ultram ER, Conzip)
Subscribe to MedicineNet's General Health Newsletter