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What Causes Back Pain?

Back pain is pretty common among adults in the United States. But why? What causes back pain?

Quick Intro to Spine Anatomy

Most of us are aware that we have a backbone running up and down the back of our bodies. Another name for the backbone is the spine. The spine runs from the base of our skull down through the neck, through the trunk of the body, through our lower back, and ends at our tailbone.

The spine is made up of a stack of individual bones called vertebrae. Between each bone is a cushion-like disc called the intervertebral disc. The bones and discs work together to allow us to bend and twist in various directions. In other words, the spine is made up of many joints.

The spine serves two main purposes. One is to help support the body’s weight. The second, is to protect the sensitive nerves that run up and down the body in the center of the spine.

Read more about the spinal anatomy.

So, What Causes Back Pain?

what causes back pain

Ultimately, most back pain can be attributed to pressure on a nerve, or bone rubbing against bone as a joint moves. However, there are many conditions that can lead to this joint or nerve pain.

Bone on Bone Joint Pain

Most joint pain related to bone rubbing against bone is felt in the immediate vicinity of the joint. Many conditions can result in one vertebrae rubbing against the next in the spine to cause back pain. Here are a few examples.

Osteoarthritis is a condition in which the cartilage within joints wears down, resulting in bone rubbing against bone. Degenerative disc disease is one condition that can lead to spinal osteoarthritis.

The formation of bone spurs in and around the spine can also lead to this effect.

Physical trauma such as an auto accident or fall can damage the vertebrae and cause back pain as a result.

Nerve Pain

Nerves are extremely sensitive. When pressure is applied to a nerve inside the body, it can be extremely painful. The pain may be felt in the immediate area or, it may radiate out to other areas of the body. Like joint pain, there are many conditions that can result in pressure on the sensitive nerves in and around the spinal column.

A herniated disc or bulging disc, are terms used to describe the condition in which an intervertebral disc loses its shape. This may cause the disk to bulge outward or inward. either way, depending on the location, the disc may bulge and put pressure on a nerve, causing pain.

In addition to causing joint pain, bone spurs can also rub against sensitive nerves causing pain.

A tumor located near the spine is another potential cause for nerve pain around the spine.

Hereditary or congenital conditions like scoliosis, spondylolisthesis, and stenosis can all lead to back pain as a result of pressure on nerves.

In addition, physical trauma such as a fall or accident can result in back pain from pressure on nerves.

So What Causes Back Pain?

Most back pain is the direct result of pressure on a nerve or bone rubbing against bone. However, there are many reasons why this may happen. So, the ultimate cause may not be clear to you, but is best diagnosed by a doctor.

*Please Note: Information on this site or any recommended sites should not be used as a diagnosis or a substitute for talking with your doctor. Always talk with your doctor about diagnosis and treatment information.
Blue Distinction Center for Spine Surgery