Backache & Spine diseases

Back pain is pain felt in the back. Episodes of back pain may be acute, sub-acute, or chronic depending on the duration. The pain may be characterized as a dull ache, shooting or piercing pain, or a burning sensation. The pain may radiate into the arms and hands as well as the legs or feet, and may include paresthesia (tingling with no apparent cause), weakness or numbness in the legs and arms. The classification of back pain follows the segments of the spine: neck pain (cervical), middle back pain (thoracic), lower back pain (lumbar) or coccydynia (tailbone or sacral pain) with the lumbar vertebrae area most common site for pain.

Back pain is common with about nine out of ten adults experiencing it at some point in their life and in most cases are because of herniated disks and stenosis. Additionally, it is the single leading cause of disability worldwide.

Back pain can be a sign of a serious medical problem, although this is not most frequently the underlying cause:

  • Typical warning signs of a potentially life-threatening problem are bowel and/or bladder incontinence or progressive weakness in the legs.
  • Severe back pain (such as pain that is bad enough to interrupt sleep) that occurs with other signs of severe illness (e.g. fever, unexplained weight loss) may also indicate a serious underlying medical condition.
  • Back pain that occurs after a trauma, such as a car accident or fall, may indicate a bone fracture or other injury.
  • Back pain in individuals with medical conditions that put them at high risk for a spinal fracture, such as osteoporosis or multiple myeloma, also warrants prompt medical attention.
  • Back pain in individuals with a history of cancer (especially cancers known to spread to the spine like breast, lung and prostate cancer) should be evaluated to rule out metastatic disease of the spine.

A few studies suggest that psychosocial factors such as on-the-job stress and dysfunctional family relationships may correlate more closely with back pain than structural abnormalities revealed in X-rays and other medical imaging scans.