Pain in Back

Back | Rheumatology | Pain in Back (Symptom)


Back pain (also known as dorsalgia) is pain felt in the back that usually originates from the muscles, nerves, bones, joints or other structures in the spine.

The pain usually lasts for only a week or so, but it can recur in some people. Rarely, persistent back pain causes long-term disability. Back pain may have a sudden onset or can be a chronic pain; it can be constant or intermittent, stay in one place or radiate to other areas. It may be a dull ache, or a sharp or piercing or burning sensation.

Back pain can be divided anatomically: neck pain, middle back pain, lower back pain or tailbone pain. The pain may radiate into the arms and hands as well as the legs or feet, and may include symptoms other than pain, such as weakness, numbness or tingling. Back pain is usually caused by minor damage to the ligaments and muscles in the back. Less commonly, lower back pain may result from an underlying disorder such as a prolapsed intervertebral disc in the spine.


It is important to understand that back pain is a symptom of a medical condition, not a diagnosis itself. Medical problems that can cause back pain include the following:

(i) Mechanical problems: intervertebral disc, spasms, muscle tension, and ruptured discs, which are also called herniated discs.

(ii) Spine injuries such as sprains and fractures.

(iii) Acquired conditions and diseases such as scoliosis, spondylolisthesis; various forms of arthritis, including osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, and ankylosing spondylitis; pregnancy; kidney stones or infections; endometriosis.

(iv) Infections and tumors can also cause pain when they involve the vertebrae: osteomyelitis, cancer.