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Posted on 12-01-2016

What Is Your Back Pain Telling You?

If you're experiencing back pain, this is probably your body's way of sending a message. However, sometimes when back pain starts we're inclined to panic. The underlying cause of back pain can often be hard to identify, as there is a lot of nerve overlapping in the discs, muscles and ligaments. Back pain's intensity and manageability is different from person to person. For example, one person might have a large herniated disc and experience no pain, while another has a simple muscle strain that causes excruciating pain and limited mobility. Back pain can also flare up from time to time and then stop, only to flare up again and gradually intensify. The three common classifications of back pain include:

Axial pain

Also called mechanical pain, axial pain is described as both sharp and dull, constant, or coming and going. Muscle strains commonly cause axial pain.

Referred pain

This is often characterized as dull and achy. Referred pain tends to move around and vary in intensity. In the lower back, degenerative disc disease may cause referred pain to the hips and posterior thighs.

Radicular pain

This is often described as deep, searing pain. Radicular pain follows the path of the nerve into the arm or leg and may be accompanied by numbness or weakness. It is caused by compression, inflammation and/or injury to a spinal nerve root. Other terms for radicular pain are sciatica or radiculopathy, and it can be caused by herniated discs or spondylolisthesis.

Anatomical causes of back pain

The anatomical structure of the spine is impressive in terms of form and function, but many interconnected and overlapping structures can produce back pain. The spine is also highly prone to injury because it is constantly subject to strong forces like twisting, jolting, sitting too much and poor posture. Common anatomical causes of back pain include:

  • The large nerve roots that go to the legs and arms are irritated
  • The smaller nerves in the discs may be irritated
  • The large paired back muscles that support the spine may be strained
  • Bones, ligaments or joints throughout the spine may be injured

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