Back pain is one of the leading reasons for doctor visits, missed work and disability worldwide. Approximately one half of Americans experience back pain yearly, and an estimated 80 percent of the population will experience back pain at some point in their lives (Source: American Chiropractic Association).
With a complaint so common, it seems like back pain would be easy to address, but not all back pain is created equal. Poor posture, muscle strain and disc damage could be the culprit, or your back pain may be a symptom of an underlying condition. If you’ve determined that your back pain is not injury or posture related, you may want to consider these causes:
Approximately 20 million Americans suffer from osteoarthritis, a degenerative condition that results from the breakdown of cartilage and the underlying bone. Spinal arthritis is one of the most common causes of back pain, and it is typically seen in adults over the age of 50. Symptoms of spinal arthritis include stiffness and tenderness in the spine as well as warmth and swelling. Pain may be intermittent and increase with physical activity.
Acid reflux occurs when the ring of muscle at the top of the stomach does not close properly and allows digestive juices to splash into the esophagus. The most common symptom of acid reflux is heartburn, but some patients experience pressure and tightness in the chest and upper back area. If you notice that your symptoms often occur after consuming common heartburn triggers, such as alcohol, tomatoes, onions or caffeine, your back pain may be reflux related.
Kidney stones occur when hard deposits of minerals and acid salts from the urine collect in the kidneys. The hallmark symptom of kidney stones is a sudden pain that occurs on one side of the lower back or lower abs. This pain may be sharp or dull and typically occurs early in the morning or late at night. If you experience this type of pain, it’s best to seek medical treatment as soon as possible.
Pneumonia is an infection that inflames the air sacks of the lungs, but it commonly causes pain in the center of the back, directly behind the lungs. This pain is often worsened by taking deep breaths. Other symptoms include cough, nausea, weakness, fever, and shallow breathing. Pneumonia is often not serious, but it can be harmful to women who are pregnant or individuals with heart and lung conditions.
Pancreatic cancer presents no symptoms in its earliest stages, but back pain and abdominal pain are common once the disease has started to spread. Back pain alone is not likely a sign of cancer, but if it is accompanied by nausea, weight loss, jaundice or dark urine, schedule an appointment with a medical professional to rule out more serious illnesses.