What causes back pain?

Back pain can range from a minor ache to chronic, debilitating pain that affects every part of your life. Regardless of the level of severity, learning about what causes back pain can help you get the treatment you need. If back pain is affecting your ability to spend time with your family, go to work or get a good night’s sleep it is critical to see your primary care doctor for diagnosis and treatment.

In many cases, long-term or more severe back pain is related to a condition affecting the spine. The good news is that these conditions are treatable, making a return to the people and activities that you’ve been missing possible. Before you see a doctor, it can be beneficial to get information about the causes of back pain so you can better communicate with your doctor and formulate an effective care plan.

Spine conditions that cause back pain

The spine is such a common source of back pain because it is responsible for supporting the weight of the upper body while being flexible enough for movement. This means years of movement, injuries, weight gain and degeneration can cause the moving parts — the joints and discs — to wear out. If displaced anatomy puts pressure on spinal nerves, painful symptoms can result.

Here are some of the conditions that can cause back pain:

  • Herniated disc. A tear in the outer wall of a spinal disc allows the inner disc material to extrude into the spinal canal.
  • Bulging disc. The nucleus pulposus pushes against the disc wall and causes the disc to extrude beyond its natural perimeter into the spinal canal.
  • Spondylolisthesis. A vertebra slips forward and over the vertebra beneath it.
  • Spinal arthritis. The gradual deterioration of cartilage surrounding the spinal facet joints
  • Spinal stenosis. A general narrowing of the spinal canal, often by any of the above conditions.

In addition to local pain, nerve compression from one of these conditions can cause radiating symptoms such as pain, tingling and numbness into the upper or lower extremities.

Treatment options

Upon diagnosis of a spine condition causing back pain, most doctors will start with a course of conservative treatment options to ease symptoms and improve mobility. Many patients are able to find relief with methods including hot/cold therapy, intermittent rest, lifestyle changes, physical therapy and medication.

If weeks or months of these treatments prove ineffective and surgery becomes a recommended option, contact Laser Spine Institute. Our minimally invasive spine surgery is an alternative to traditional open neck or back procedures because we use a less than 1-inch incision to access the spine. By sparing important supporting muscles, we can offer our patients an outpatient procedure with less risk of complication and a shorter recovery time compared to traditional open spine surgery.^

Reach out to our team of dedicated Spine Care Consultants today for a no-cost MRI review* that can help you determine if you are a candidate for one of our procedures.