Back pain can come on suddenly and last less than six weeks (acute), which may be caused by a fall or heavy lifting. Back pain that lasts more than three months (chronic) is less common than acute pain.
Back pain often develops without a specific cause that your doctor can identify with a test or imaging study. Conditions commonly linked to back pain include:
June 17, 2015
- Muscle or ligament strain. Repeated heavy lifting or a sudden awkward movement may strain back muscles and spinal ligaments. If you're in poor physical condition, constant strain on your back may cause painful muscle spasms.
- Bulging or ruptured disks. Disks act as cushions between the bones (vertebrae) in your spine. The soft material inside a disk can bulge or rupture and press on a nerve. However, you can have a bulging or ruptured disk without back pain. Disk disease is often found incidentally when you undergo spine X-rays for some other reason.
- Arthritis. Osteoarthritis can affect the lower back. In some cases arthritis in the spine can lead to a narrowing of the space around the spinal cord, a condition called spinal stenosis.
- Skeletal irregularities. Back pain can occur if your spine curves abnormally. Scoliosis, a condition in which your spine curves to the side, also may lead to back pain, but generally only if the scoliosis is severe.
- Osteoporosis. Your spine's vertebrae can develop compression fractures if your bones become porous and brittle.
- What is back pain? National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases. http://www.niams.nih.gov/health_info/back_pain/back_pain_ff/asp. Accessed May 29, 2015.
- Adult acute and subacute low back pain. Bloomington, Minn.: Institute for Clinical Systems Improvement. http://www.icsi.org/low_back_pain/adult_low_back_pain__8.html. Accessed June 4, 2015.
- Back pain facts and statistics. American Chiropractic Association. http://www.acatoday.org/level2_css.cfm?T1ID=13&T2ID=68. Accessed May 29, 2015.
- Prevent back pain. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. http://healthfinder.gov/HealthTopics/Category/everyday-healthy-living/safety/prevent-back-pain. Accessed May 29, 2015.
- Low back pain. American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons. http://orthoinfo.aaos.org/topic.cfm?topic=a00311. Accessed May 29, 2015.
- Knight CL, et al. Treatment of acute low back pain. http://www.uptodate.com/home. Accessed May 29, 2015.