Back Pain Symptoms, Causes, Treatment & Prevention

One of the most widespread complaints among patients is back pain. Among Americans, an estimated 75 to 85 percent will experience back pain at some point in their lives. Depending on the cause of the pain, back pain may last for a brief period of time or become chronic.

Back pain not only affects Americans but people all around the world and is the leading cause of disability worldwide. While many mistakenly believe that back pain is a condition, it is actually a symptom. It can indicate a medical issue that needs to be evaluated and resolved by a doctor.

Some of the leading causes of back pain are injuries such as muscle strains or sprains, traumas such as car accidents, poor posture, overuse, and disc degeneration. If you feel limited due to acute low back pain or are experiencing excruciating pain anywhere in your back, contact one of our specialists today.


The symptoms of back pain are not one size fits all. What you experience may differ compared to a friend or family member. This is why it’s essential to be knowledgeable on all of the symptoms of back pain. The most common signs include:

  • Pain or aching that is present anywhere in the back
  • Shooting, burning, stabbing, dull or sharp pain
  • Pain that gets worse while standing, squatting, lifting, and twisting
  • Limited range of motion
  • Decreased flexibility

While less common, these back pain symptoms are serious. If you experience any of them, you should seek immediate medical attention:

  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Fever
  • Incontinence
  • Leg pain
  • Pain following a trauma, accident, or fall
  • Swelling
  • Pain that does not stop with rest
  • Weakness
  • Any numbness or tingling that radiates down the legs
  • Pain below the knee
  • Pain that persists for weeks
  • Chronic low back pain


There are many reasons why you may experience back pain. Since causes vary from person to person, it’s best to see a doctor for proper examination and diagnosis. While this list is not exhaustive, some of the most common causes of back pain include the following:

  • Sprained or strained muscles, ligaments, or tendons
  • Compression fracture
  • Degenerative disc disease
  • Osteoarthritis
  • Obesity
  • Injury
  • Depression and anxiety
  • A herniated disc
  • High stress levels
  • Scoliosis
  • Kidney infection
  • Smoking
  • Genetics
  • Occupational hazards
  • Muscles spasms
  • Bulging or ruptured discs
  • Sciatica
  • Kidney stones
  • Poor posture
  • Pregnancy
  • Cancer
  • UTI
  • Osteoporosis
  • Spinal stenosis
  • Facet joint syndrome located in the lumbar spine


The first step to diagnosis is to see a physician. A doctor can evaluate you by completing a physical examination, running diagnostic procedures, and considering your medical history.

Before your exam begins, your doctor will ask you for your medical history and ask for details regarding your symptoms and lifestyle. This may include information about your sleep habits, posture, exercise habits, occupation, history of injury, whether you smoke or not, your stress levels, and more.

During the physical examination, your doctor may check your range of motion, strength, and reflexes. They may test your legs as well, if necessary. The doctor may feel up and down your back to check for pain, spasms, and tenderness. This can also help them discover joint issues as well.

Usually, patients do not need any other tests to diagnose their back pain beyond their medical history and a physical. However, if further testing is recommended, your doctor may order any of the following tests.

  • An X-ray: This test can identify broken bones and fractures.
  • EMG: An EMG measures how your muscles respond to nerve signals from your brain.
  • MRI: A MRI is used to look at muscles, ligaments, and tendons. This test can identify tumors, herniated discs, and inflammation as well.
  • A CT scan, also known as a CAT scan, can detect spinal stenosis and ruptured discs.
  • Blood test: Used to test for infection.
  • Urine test: This is also used to test for infection.
  • Nerve Conduction Study: This test is conducted to measure the electrical activity in a nerve, which, depending on the results, can determine whether you have nerve damage.

These tests are usually ordered if you have back pain due to an injury or trauma, if your pain has been present and consistent for a long time or if your doctor suspects there is an underlying cause.

Many patients believe they will need surgery. However, in many cases, this is not true.


Although back pain can be a nightmare, it is usually temporary. Fortunately, 90 percent of back pain cases resolve without surgery. The bad news is, it can be chronic for some sufferers.

While it may be recurrent, there are still numerous treatment options available to reduce your pain. Depending on your diagnosis, your physician may recommend the following treatments.

  • Physical therapy
  • Anti-inflammatory drugs
  • Exercise
  • Chiropractic intervention
  • Topical ointments
  • Heat or ice
  • Muscle relaxers
  • Lifestyle changes
  • Steroid injections
  • Acupuncture
  • Surgery
  • Massage therapy
  • Rest
  • TENS
  • Yoga
  • Meditation

While the cause of back pain varies greatly, most patients take their first steps towards treatment at home, especially for minor pains. Self-care may include rest, heat therapy or ice therapy, and OTC medicines such as Advil, Tylenol, Aleve, etc.

It’s important not to rest too long because this can make the pain worse, lead to stiffness and impair the healing process. If an activity makes your pain worse, avoid it if you can but don’t be afraid to stay active when you are able.

Back pain can be tricky to diagnose and treat, but the good news is there are plenty of pain relief options that are minimally invasive, if at all. Talk to one of our specialists to receive a back pain treatment plan tailored to your needs.


Even though pain is a natural part of life, we don’t have to invite it into our lives. Taking preventative steps is a great way to get ahead of the curve and head off back pain before it begins.

One way you can prevent back pain is by maintaining good posture while you sit and stand. Especially if you work a sedentary job, it’s crucial to practice proper posture as a preventative measure.

Another way to prevent back pain is to stop smoking and to maintain a healthy weight. If your diet is unbalanced and you take part in little physical activity, this can lead to excess body weight, which can lead to physical strain.

If you are not already active, it’s important to start exercising as soon as possible. Whether you want to take a few weekly walks around your neighborhood, swim at a pool, or take up kickboxing, any activity is better than no activity. Strength training can help with prevention as well.

Reduce stress wherever you can. Stress can lead people to hold tension in their bodies. Constant tension can lead to pain. Consider coping mechanisms such as meditation and yoga to reduce your stress levels.

Lastly, when lifting and squatting, make sure you use the proper technique and form. This can help you prevent muscle sprains and strains. Avoid lifting with your back and instead lift using your legs.

Why Our Pain Specialists Can Help

Our pain management specialists have extensive experience treating back pain and conditions that cause back pain. We strongly recommend seeing a doctor if you are experiencing pain so the problem can be identified and resolved.

While back pain is extremely common, it can be severe and lead to a decreased quality of life. Our back pain doctors are here to help any way they can and help give you your life back. Contact our office to schedule an appointment at 480-986-7246 to get started.

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Not all cases of back pain need professional intervention. Self-care, rest and home treatment may make the pain go away. However, there are instances when you need to see a medical professional. If the back pain extends down to the other parts of your body, or if it is accompanied by other symptoms like numbness, weakness and weight loss, then you need to seek medical help.

Simple headache and neck pain may be treated within days. With rest and self-care, you will get better. However, if the pain is caused by a more serous health issue, then you will need a more specialized treatment and pain management solution. This of course will require proper diagnosis of the underlying condition first. To be sure, only seek help from experienced, skilled specialists.

If you experience other symptoms other than pain, don’t wait any longer before you seek medical help. Make an appointment with the reliable, skilled and experienced specialists at Arizona Pain and Spine Institute.