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About Back Pain
When you feel pain, it is really a reaction to signals transmitted throughout your body. These signals are sent from the pain source -- such as a sore back, through the nerves in the spinal cord, and up to the brain, where they are perceived as pain. It is important to differentiate between acute back pain and chronic back pain.
Acute back pain is commonly described as a very sharp pain or a dull ache, usually felt deep in the lower part of the back, and can be more severe in one area, such as the right side, left side, center, or the lower part of the back. Acute pain can be intermittent, but is usually constant, only ranging in severity.
Sometimes, acute back pain can be caused by injury or trauma to the back, but just as often has no known cause. Patients with acute back pain, even when it's severe, will typically improve or completely recover within six to eight weeks.
Approximately half of all back pain patients have acute pain caused by trauma. A contusion, torn muscle, or strained joint resulting from a back injury can cause acute pain. Patients with any of these conditions typically exhibit pain, muscle spasms, and decreased functional activities. Treatment is short-term and usually successful.
Chronic back pain is commonly described as deep, aching, dull or burning pain in one area of the back or traveling down the legs (also known as radicular pain). Patients may experience numbness , tingling, burning, or a pins-and-needles type sensation in the legs. Regular daily activities may become difficult or impossible for the chronic back pain patient. They may find it difficult or unbearable to work, for example, even when the job does not require manual labor.
Chronic back pain tends to last a long time. It may result from a previous injury long since healed, or it may have an ongoing cause, such as nerve damage or arthritis. It may be helpful to keep a record of your back pain using our Back Pain Journal.
If you have chronic back pain, talk to your doctor about appropriate treatment options. To find a doctor in your area, use our Find A Doctor locator.