Curvature of the spine, known as scoliosis, is relatively common and almost never dangerous. While scoliosis can lead to chronic back pain, it is unlikely to cause acute back pain. Degenerative disc disease and muscle strains are the most common causes of acute and recurrent back pain. Pain due to these causes generally resolves on its own with anti-inflammatory medications, exercises, and time. Severe pain, weakness of the arms or legs, and bowel or bladder incontinence could be signs of more serious conditions for which you should be seen immediately.
While the list below can be considered as a guide to educate yourself about these conditions, this is not a substitute for a diagnosis from a health care provider. There are many other medical conditions that also can be associated with your symptoms and signs. Here are a number of those from MedicineNet:
Degenerative disc disease makes the disc more susceptible to herniation (rupture) which can lead to localized or radiating pain. The pain from degenerative disc or joint disease of the spine is usually treated conservatively with intermittent heat, rest, rehabilitative exercises and medications to relieve pain, muscle spasm and inflammation.
Scoliosis causes an abnormal curvature of the spine. When the cause of scoliosis is unknown the disorder is described based on the age when the scoliosis develops (infantile, juvenile, or adolescent idiopathic scoliosis). In functional scoliosis, curvature develops due to a problem somewhere else in the body. With neuromuscular scoliosis, there is a problem when the bones of the spine are formed. Treatment typically involves observation, bracing, and surgery and is dependent upon the severity of the curvature.
Muscle spasms are involuntary muscle contractions that come on suddenly and are usually quite painful. Dehydration, doing strenuous exercise in a hot environment, prolonged muscle use, and certain diseases of the nervous system may cause muscle spasms. Symptoms and signs of a muscle spasm include an acute onset of pain and a possible bulge seen or felt beneath the skin where the muscle is located. Gently stretching the muscle usually resolves a muscle spasm.
Thoracic Outlet Syndrome
Thoracic outlet syndrome is a condition where symptoms are produced from compression of nerves or blood vessels because the passageway through the neck and armpit is inadequate. Symptoms of thoracic outlet syndrome include neck, shoulder, and arm pain, and numbness or impaired circulation to the extremities.
At MedicineNet, we believe it is important to take charge of your health through measures such as a living healthy lifestyle, practicing preventative medicine, following a nutrition plan, and getting regular exercise. Understanding your symptoms and signs and educating yourself about health conditions are also a part of living your healthiest life. The links above will provide you with more detailed information on these medical conditions to help you inform yourself about the causes and available treatments for these conditions.