Not all back pain is created equal; there are several different types of back pain and many different symptoms of back pain. Some of the most common areas for back pain are the upper, middle, and lower back, but you may also experience pain that is directly related to the sciatic nerve, low back strain, or back pain that only occurs at night.

Upper and lower back pain is the most common symptom, obviously. 

You may experience pain in any area of the back that ranges from:

  • Aching and stiffness in the neck, along the spine, or in the low back
  • A chronic ache in the lower back
  • Difficulty standing for long periods of time or pain in the low back when doing so
  • Any sharp pain that is the result of physical activity (like lifting a box or playing a game of catch) 

The severity of these symptoms can range from mild to severe, and there are some warning signs to look out for. If you have a sharp pain in the middle or upper range of your back, this could be a sign of heart attack. Likewise, if you experience any pain that is accompanied by numbness or tingling in your arms and legs, or pain that moves down your leg or gets worse when you bend forward, consult your doctor immediately.

Pain related to the sciatic nerve–the nerve that runs from the low back down both legs–can be both severe and debilitating.

This type of pain may get worse when you sit and may make it difficult to move one or both of your legs. It can be either a constant ache or a shooting pain down the back or the side of the body. People who experience this type of back pain may have it only on occasion or may experience damage to the sciatic nerve that makes the pain part of their daily life.

Sciatic pain can be caused by many things, including pregnancy, being overweight, wearing high heels, and not getting adequate exercise to build supportive back and abdominal muscle. Whatever the cause, if symptoms worsen, consult your doctor.

Low back strain is one of the most common symptoms of back pain. 

This pain occurs when you do something that stretches the muscles and ligaments in your lower back beyond their capacity. This can happen when you exercise too strenuously without a proper warm-up, lift something improperly, fall, or bend over repeatedly.  Once again, being overweight or out of shape can contribute to low back strain.

Finally, night time back pain is one of the least common types of back pain. This is pain that specifically occurs when you lay down. In fact, a person may be fine and not feel pain during the day but experience pain as soon as they turn out the lights. This can be caused by a number of things, including serious issues such as problems with the spine, scoliosis, or kidney stones, or it can be a symptom of tumors of the spine or cancer. All persistent pain should be discussed with a doctor, but night time back pain in particular should be addressed quickly. 

Most people will experience some type of back pain in their life; what can you do to protect your back today?

Image by Roy Costello via Flickr

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