The Types of Back Pain You Need to Know About

I’m willing to bet that chances are pretty good that you’re here because you’re in pain and you want to know how to get rid of it.  I’ve been there and I know just how debilitating back pain can be. In this article, you will learn about the different types of back pain there are and how to remedy them.  I sincerely hope you get exactly what you need out of this blog post.


Back Pain: The Hellish Nightmare It Can Become

I created this website because I wanted to help as many people as I possibly can.  I know the pain from your back can be unbearable at times.

I’ve suffered from back pain for more than a decade and to be quite honest:  it sucks.

Sometimes there are no words to describe how much it can affect us.

To combat this situation more effectively, we need to educate ourselves on what exactly back pain is.

What Causes Back Pain?

Lumbago, which is just a fancy way of saying lower back pain, is actually pretty darned common in the United States.  According to Statista, 54% of adults experience bad back issues for more than 5 years.

That’s INSANE!

Here’s another for you:  The American Chiropractic Association (ACA) says that up to 80% of Americans will have back pain issues at some time in their lives.

The bone structure in our back: the spine, shoulder joints, radiate ligaments, and many other parts all work together so we can do everyday things like stretch, move about, and anything else we may take for granted.

We can experience back pain when any part of this complex structure is compromised in any way from an injury, sprain, or other myriad reasons.

How Do I Know If My Back Pain Is Serious?

I’m no doctor and I will never pretend that I have all the answers.  Honestly, you should see a doctor anyway, regardless of the pain level.

But if you’re back pain is so bad that you can’t even put on your pants (this was me just a month before writing this post) or breathe normally then you should definitely go see a doctor.

Your health and well being are super important and you should never get to the point that you can’t even function normally because of your back.

I know all too well that that’s just not the case sometimes.  Back pain can flare up without a moment’s notice.

That’s exactly what happened to me just last month.  One day you’re ‘A-Okay” and the next day you can’t get out of bed

It doesn’t make any sense sometimes.

So, how do we know if our back pain is bad enough to see a doctor A.S.A.P.?

You should see a doctor about your back pain if:

If you experience numbness, weakness, or tingling.  These are generally not good signs and is something for which you should see a professional right away.

If you experience more pain at certain times.  If your back gets worse at certain times of the day, i.e. only at night, or if the pain is worse in certain positions, then you should see a doctor as soon as you can.

If you’re experiencing fever with your back pain then you should call your doctor.  This is more than likely a sign of some type of infection.

After an injury.  You should seek medical attention after a back pain-inducing injury.  You should also seek attention if you see redness or swelling in the affected area.

If you have back pain that goes beyond your back.  This is something I personally have experience with.  Pain that goes beyond your back, such as shooting pain down the leg to the foot, might be an indicator of something more serious than a strained back muscle.

What are the symptoms of back pain?

The Mayo Clinic says that back pain can often occur without a cause and you should see a doctor for a proper diagnosis.

The good thing about a troublesome back is there is rarely a need for surgery and that the majority of back usually goes away within six weeks.

I know that’s not the case for everyone (read: ME), but that we know the causes of back pain, we should look at the symptoms of back pain.

The symptoms and pain levels that can come from a sprained or injured back can vary from mild discomfort to something that is beyond excruciating.

Signs and symptoms of back pain can include:

  • Pain that radiates down your leg/s

  • Sharp/stabbing/shooting pain

  • Muscle aches

  • Pain that gets worse when you walk, sit, stand, lift, or bend over

What are the common causes of back pain?

Anyone can develop back pain and there are several factors that can increase the likelihood of you experiencing it.

Improper lifting can increase your chances of injuring or spraining your back.  I speak to the truth of that since that is exactly how I ended up with a bad back.  Leave a comment below if you want me to write about that experience.

Poor posture is another common risk factor.  Maintaining good posture involves moving your body in such ways that there is the least amount of strain on the supporting muscles and ligaments in your back.

Excessive weight.  This could mean physically carrying or moving something like a heavy box, or simply just being overweight.  After all, it makes sense. The harder you make your back muscles and ligaments work, the more likely you are to experience back pain.

These three are the most common contributors to many types of back pain.

What Can I Do To Prevent Back Pain? 

There are certain steps you can take to lower your risk of developing back pain.  These are in direct relation to the causes of back pain I just listed in the section above.

These simple back pain prevention tips are:

Don’t twist and lift at the same time.  Lifting something without proper form can prove to be dangerous and can greatly increase your chances of developing back pain.

When lifting, it is important to keep your back and neck straight and lift with your legs.  If the item is particularly heavy, you should seek assistance and try to keep the item in the center of gravity for the least amount of strain.

Proper sitting posture.  Sitting for prolonged periods of time combined with poor posture can wreak havoc on your back over time.  

This includes sitting at your work desk, looking down at your phone while sitting for an extended period of time, and driving long distances (45 minutes or more).

When sitting, make sure that your hips and knees are level, and that your feet are flat on the floor.  

When driving, make sure that your side and rear view mirrors are placed so that you don’t have to twist around to get a view.  The gas pedal and brake should be directly in front of your feet.

Proper Standing Posture.  When you’re aiming for a good posture, you want to make sure that you’re maintaining a neutral pelvic position.  That means standing up straight and tall with your head facing forward, back straight, and your body weight equally distributed between both legs and feet.

It might not seem like much at first, but being mindful of these few tips can go a long way in preventing back pain further down the line.

Upper Back Pain

Upper back pain and all of its symptoms also include the middle of your back.

Pain in the upper and middle is less common than other types of back pain such as in the lower back.  And though all back pain is not to be taken lightly, pain in your upper back might be more serious than a sprained muscle.

Your upper back is the region below your neck (your cervical spine) and above your lower back (your lumbar spine).  This area is called the thoracic spine.

The upper back is actually the most stable part of your back and has a limited range of motion due to all the connections to your ribs.

Common Upper back pain symptoms

Upper back pain symptoms can vary greatly from person to person.  It’s not like other types of back pain.

Some people might experience a slight discomfort while others aren’t able to do much at all due to high levels of pain.

Here are some common symptoms one might go through when having trouble with their upper and middle back:

General discomfort.  These are achy and throbbing pains that may possibly spread to other areas such as your neck or shoulders.  For me, a simple stretching session, some rest, and an anti-inflammatory like ibuprofen usually do the trick for me.

Stiffness.  The upper back already has a limited range of motion due to all the attachments to your rib cage.  Sometimes, though, this can get worse with pain. There are days where I have a hard time moving my arms around because my upper back gets so stiff.

Some Not So Common Upper Back Pain Symptoms

There are some symptoms you might experience that are not as common as the others listed above.

These include:

Upper back pain when breathing.  If you’re having a bad day with your back and you notice that it hurts a bit more (or a lot more) when you take a deep or full breath then you should seriously consider visiting with a health professional as soon as you can help it.

Upper back pain between the shoulder blades.  Experiencing pain in this area might be a sign of lung cancer.  The tumor (or tumors) can place direct pressure on the spinal column, irritate nerves, and irritate the lining of the lungs and chest wall.

Upper back pain causes

Just like with any other type of back pain, the causes can widely vary.

Here is a short list of a few of the potential causes to upper and middle back pain:

Carrying a heavy backpack.  I’m sure I’m not the only one who thought of how heavy my backpack was in high school and college.  I remember days and even weeks where I could feel the muscles between my shoulder blades would be more sore than usual.  Carrying a heavier amount than you normally do can cause upper back pain.

Scoliosis.  Scoliosis is a condition where the spine has one or more unusual curves.  It makes your back look like an ‘S’ or a ‘C’, depending on how many curves there are.  Some people have very mild cases where you wouldn’t even be able to tell their back was curved, while others suffer from severe spinal curves.

Injury/trauma to the upper spine.  If you’ve been involved in some type of accident where your spine may have been injured, you should consult a medical professional to make sure it isn’t something that couldn’t be treated.

Even a light hit to the back could be enough for a small fracture to occur and put pressure on your nerves.

Osteoporosis.  According to the National Institute of Health, over 53 million people in the United States have, or are at high risk of developing, osteoporosis.  That’s a pretty big number of people and there are many contributing factors to developing this bone disease.

When Should I See A Doctor About My Upper Back Pain?

There are certain symptoms you ought to watch out for as they indicate something much more serious than a sprained muscle.

If you experience weakness, numbness, or tingling.  You should see a doctor immediately if you feel any of these symptoms.  Numbness, tingling, and weakness is never a good thing. The best way you can help your doctor is to keep track of the areas where you feel the tingling or numbness and try to describe it as best as you can.

Try to take note if you only experience weakness, numbness, or tingling only during certain times a day or when you move into specific positions or make certain movements (walking, sitting down).

If the pain worsens at night or when you lie down.  This could be an indicator of a lung cancer.  The tumor can apply pressure to your spine when you lie down.  So if that’s the case, set an appointment with your doctor A.S.A.P!

Swelling, heat, and fever.  Any of these might indicate an infection of some kind.  It is best to see your doctor as soon as you can. If your fever is 101 degrees and climbing, you should go to the emergency room!

Lower Back Pain

I saved the worst for last.

Out of all the types of back pain, lower back pain is the most common.  It’s the reason why I started this website, to begin with.

The National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, a part of the National Institute of Health, states that 80% of the population will experience lower back pain at some point in their life.

It’s the leading cause of people missing work in the United States.

The American Chiropractic Association has stated that lower back pain is the single most disabling condition worldwide.

You and I both know that there is no shortage of lower back pain.

Lower back pain has only grown worse over the years.  In 1990, the National Institute of Health conducted a study of the most burdensome conditions in the United States in terms of poor health and mortality and they ranked lower back pain at 6th place.  In 2010, low back pain jumped up to the third rank.

How Do I Identify Lower Back Pain Symptoms?

I've had my fair share of lower back pain throughout the last 10 years.  Most of that pain occurs in my lower back. I'm willing to bet that you’re here because you’re also experiencing pain in your lower back.

The symptoms can range from dull to sharp and burning.  The most common, ever present, form of pain I feel is a dull aching sensation.  This pain almost never goes away.  At this point, I’m used to it.
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Marty L.