Pain in the back? These are the eight possible causes!

Many people experience back pain. According to the CDC more than one-quarter of US adults interviewed said they had experienced low back pain in the past 3 months. The term ‘backache’ refers to a collection of different symptoms that can have a major influence on your daily life. In fact, back pain is a leading cause of missed work in the US. ‘Moving Without Pain’ collected all possible forms for you in this article.

1. ‘Normal’ backache

Almost everybody suffers from “normal” back pain at some point in his or her life. Usually it is present between the lower rib and the start of the buttock and arises without a clearly identifiable cause. Therefore, we also refer to this as unspecified back pain. Sitting incorrectly, lifting heavy objects, or prolonged exercise of the back muscles can lead to these complaints. There are also indications that stress, poor health, and a lot of driving, can lead to unspecified back pain. With a little rest and an acetaminophen, this form of back pain should be gone soon.

pain in the back

2. Muscle cramps

This form of back pain occurs when one or more muscle groups suddenly contract. Such an attack usually only takes a few minutes, but it can be very painful. This is a natural reaction of your body to prevent overload of the back muscles. Muscle cramps therefore occur especially during long-term sporting activities or during work in and around the house. For example, your back muscles may not be strong enough to lift heavy objects. If you do, then muscle cramps may occur. This way your body gives you a signal to stop in order to prevent damage to your back muscles. In addition, bad posture or unnatural sitting and sleeping positions can lead to muscle cramps.

Usually the backache disappears with rest and an acetaminophen. In addition, a muscle balm can help to alleviate the complaints. In case of persistent or recurrent complaints, your GP may prescribe a muscle relaxant. He can also examine your back to see if another problem is causing the muscle cramps.

3. Kidney stones

These are small and hard pebbles that are made up of minerals and salt crystals. Kidney stones can cause a pain on the side of the back where they are located. When they get into the urethra, a severe pain can develop in the lower back and lower abdomen.

Drink a lot of water – at least 2 liters a day – to help rinse the urinary tract of small kidney stones. This can be painful. Therefore, doctors usually recommend you take a pain reliever at the same time, such as Ibuprofen or Acetaminophen. Your doctor may also prescribe alpha-blockers. These drugs relax the urinary tract’s muscles and act as a pain reliever. As a result, the kidney stones can easily leave the body. In case of large kidney stones, a medical procedure may be necessary.

4. Back hernia

A back hernia occurs when the core of the inter-vertebral discs protrudes out. This protrusion causes a nodule, which exerts pressure against the spinal cord and nerves. Pain then develops in the lower back that radiates via the buttock to one leg. In most cases, a back hernia spontaneously disappears. To fight the pain your doctor will prescribe an anti-inflammatory pain reliever that reduces swelling. A physical therapist can help you to strengthen the muscles of your lower back and abdomen. In case of serious outbreaks or persistent complaints, surgery may be an option.

5. Spondylosis

Spondylosis is osteoarthritis of the spine (back osteoarthritis). In this condition, the inter-vertebral vertebrae – which are always between two separate vertebrae – deteriorate. It is quite normal that these cartilage discs will lose fluid upon ageing. This makes these elastic inter-vertebral discs drier and therefore more sensitive to erosion. Pain and stiffness develop in the lower part of your back. As the disease progresses, you can lose mobility and the pain increases.

The doctor will prescribe anti-inflammatory pain relievers to combat the pain in your back. He can also refer you to a physical therapist to keep the back muscles supple and strong. If the pain is too severe, surgery may be an option. During this procedure, the surgeon will remove a piece of inter-vertebral disc, or fuse two vertebrae to each other.

6. Spondylitis

This is an inflammation of the vertebrae or inter-vertebral discs. The inflammation causes the formation of scar tissue, which converts into bone tissue over time. As a result, the back can become crooked. Exercise may cause the pain to increase in intensity. However, resting does not alleviate this pain. Spondylitis is, in most cases, caused by a bacterium. The treatment for this condition is an infusion, which contains a high dose of antibiotics to kill these pathogens.

7. Spinal canal stenosis

This is a narrowing of the spinal canal. Usually this condition presents itself in the lower back. This narrowing causes pain to develop due to the trapped nerves. The main cause of spinal stenosis is osteoarthritis. This condition is therefore common in people aged 50 and older. Pain in the lower back, and an unsteady feeling while walking, are the main symptoms. You can reduce these symptoms by sitting, bending or crouching. With these postures, your back becomes more convex, which gives the pinched nerves more space.

Your doctor will prescribe an anti-inflammatory pain reliever. He can also refer you to a physical therapist to keep your spine strong and supple. In the event of persistent and serious complaints, the surgeon may proceed with an operation in which the spinal canal widened.

8. SI syndrome

The sacroiliac joint – in short SI joint – is usually the cause of lower back pain. We also refer to this as ‘SI syndrome’. These two joints form the connection between the spine and the bones of the hips and legs. Their function is to transfer the weight of your upper body to your hips and legs. The two SI joints continuously subjected to heavy loads. A fall or misstep can cause damage to the ligaments around these joints. This creates pain in the lower back.

Your doctor may prescribe acetaminophen to combat the pain. If inflammation occurs in the area, he will send you home with an anti-inflammatory pain reliever. Your doctor will also usually advise a few weeks of rest. Then you can go to a physical therapist to strengthen the muscles of the trunk, buttocks and thighs and make them stronger and more mobile.


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