Back Pain Home > Back Pain

Back pain is one of the most common medical problems -- an estimated 8 out of 10 people suffer from it. Symptoms can range from a muscle ache to shooting pain, limited range of motion, and an inability to stand up straight. The goal of treatment is to restore proper function and strength to the back and prevent recurrence of the injury.

What Is Back Pain?

Back pain is an all-too-familiar problem that can range from a dull, constant ache to a sudden, sharp pain that leaves you incapacitated. It can come on suddenly -- from an accident, a fall, or lifting something too heavy -- or it can develop slowly, perhaps as the result of age-related changes to the spine. Regardless of how back pain happens or how it feels, you will know it when you have it. And chances are, if you don't have back pain now, you will eventually. At some point, back pain affects an estimated 8 out of 10 people. Back pain is one of our society's most common medical problems.
 

Types and Causes

Acute or short-term low back pain generally lasts from a few days to a few weeks. Acute back pain is usually the result of trauma to the lower back or a disorder such as arthritis. Pain from trauma may be caused by:
 
  • A sports injury
  • Work around the house or in the garden
  • A sudden jolt, such as a car accident
  • Other stress on spinal bones and tissues.
 
Chronic back pain is pain that persists for more than 3 months; it is often progressive; and the cause can be difficult to determine.

(Click Causes of Back Pain for more information about back pain causes.)
 

Symptoms of Back Pain

Back pain symptoms may range from:
 
  • A muscle ache to shooting or stabbing pain
  • Limited flexibility and range of motion
  • An inability to stand up straight.
 
Written by/reviewed by:
Last reviewed by: Arthur Schoenstadt, MD
Last updated/reviewed:
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