Sneaky Causes Of Intense Back Pain That May Surprise You

If back pain is affecting your day-to-day life, you are not alone. According to the Health Policy Institute at Georgetown University, back pain is one of the leading complaints of patients to their healthcare providers. Approximately 16 million adults in the United States — which is about 8% of all adults in the United States — experience chronic back pain. Chronic back pain is persistent and lasts for a while.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) explains that acute low back pain is one of the most common complaints of pain to healthcare providers. Additionally, it is a leading cause of disability around the world.

Given how prevalent back pain is, a frequent question is what causes it. While there are surprising causes of back pain, MedlinePlus explains the most common cause is a sudden injury that affects the muscles and ligaments in the back. However, there are other causes that you may not be aware of when it comes to this type of pain.

Other common causes of back pain

Johns Hopkins Medicine explains that another common cause of back pain is arthritis of the spine. The culprit is the degeneration of the spinal joints over time. This degeneration causes inflammation and pain from friction due to thinning cartilage.

According to Johns Hopkins Medicine, some lifestyle factors that increase inflammation may also play a role in back pain. These include smoking, obesity, and physical activity. The thought is that this inflammation — along with the adverse effects of inflammation, such as reduced ability to heal — is the cause of pain.

Obese individuals may face multiple chronic pain conditions, including back pain, and physical activity levels may also may a role. Too little activity and a sedentary lifestyle may contribute to back pain. However, too much exercise — particularly strenuous exercise — can also increase back pain. Some of these lifestyle factors, such as smoking, may be modifiable. Your healthcare provider is an excellent resource if you are interested in quitting smoking or considering beginning an exercise regimen.

More serious causes of back pain

Aside from the more common and potentially modifiable causes, the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases lists numerous health conditions that may cause back pain. Some conditions behind back pain include fibromyalgia, kidney stones, endometriosis, and pregnancy, among others.

Various forms of cancer and other serious health conditions can also present as low back pain. For example, Johns Hopkins Medicine explains that one of the first symptoms of prostate cancer that has metastasized (or spread beyond the prostate) is lower back pain. It also explains how some cancers, such as sarcomas, can begin in the back. Furthermore, nearly any cancer can spread to the back. 

While it is important to remember that the most common causes of back pain are injury or strain, it is also important to listen to your body. If your back pain is new or something you are concerned about, it is essential to reach out to your healthcare provider. They can provide you with the appropriate next steps.