Table of contents:
- Back pain: what is it?
- How does back pain arise?
- Non-specific back pain is common
- Diseases of other organs as a trigger
Back pain: what is it?
Back pain is pain in the lower back. This area extends from the base of the ribs to the hips. The lumbar spine and sacrum are affected. Neck and shoulder areas are not included. Lower back or back pain is also known as low back pain. Sudden shooting pain in the lower back is popularly known as "lumbago".
The pain can radiate from the back to other parts of the body, such as the legs. This is often the case when the nerve root is irritated, for example due to narrowing. Sciatic nerve irritation is popularly spoken of, although this term is imprecise. The exit of the nerve from the spine is called the nerve root.
Around nine out of ten people with acute low back pain are free of symptoms again after six weeks at the latest. Very few people affected, namely about seven out of 100 patients, develop chronic complaints with long-lasting pain.
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How does back pain arise?
- The spine is subject to natural wear and tear. The intervertebral discs lose their elasticity and become flat over time. This loosens the connections between the vertebrae and the vertebral joints wear out more. This contributes to the development of back pain.
- Repeated physical overload, e.g. through heavy lifting, can accelerate wear and tear and trigger acute back pain.
- Sitting for long periods, lack of exercise and poor posture all contribute to the fact that parts of the back muscles atrophy. Other muscle groups have to take over the holding work. This can result in muscular overload and painful tension.
- Psychological factors such as stress, work overload, fear, etc. can play a role in the development of back pain - especially chronic complaints.
- Special diseases of the spine or injuries are rarely the cause of lower back pain, e.g. vertebral body fractures, vertebral sliding (spondylolisthesis), inflammation, nerve damage or tumor diseases.
Non-specific back pain is common
In the vast majority of patients, no specific cause for the pain can be found. These cases are known as nonspecific low back or back pain.
In the case of specific lower back or back pain, however, there is a specific cause or a clearly diagnosable disease. Sometimes specific and unspecific back pain cannot be clearly demarcated. This particularly applies to degenerative changes in the spine.
Diseases of other organs as a trigger
Stubborn back pain can rarely occur as a consequence of diseases of other organs. However, these causes of back pain are very rare and affect around two in 100 patients. These include:
- Diseases of the abdominal organs, e.g. inflammation of the gallbladder or pancreas,
- Vascular changes, e.g. bulges in the main artery (aorta),
- Diseases of the genital organs, e.g. prostate disease, ovarian inflammation,
- Kidney problems, e.g. kidney stones,
- rheumatic or inflammatory diseases, e.g. Bechterew's disease, Crohn's disease,
- Nerve disorders or
- Tumor diseases.
For more information, see Back pain prevention, diagnosis, therapy.