Movement problems: A movement or mechanical problem is a problem with the way the spine moves or the way an individual feels when they move the spine in certain ways. Perhaps the most common mechanical cause of back pain is intervertebral disc degeneration. In this condition, the discs located between the vertebrae of the spine break down with age. As the vertebrae deteriorate, they lose their cushioning ability. This problem can lead to pain if the back is stressed. Other mechanical causes of back pain include spasms, muscle tension, and ruptured or herniated discs.
Injuries: Spinal injuries, such as sprains and fractures, can cause either acute (short-lived) or chronic (long-term) pain. Sprains or tears in the ligaments that support the spine can occur from twisting or lifting improperly. Fractured vertebrae are often the result of osteoporosis, a condition that causes weak, porous bones. Less commonly, back pain may be caused by more severe injuries that result from accidents and falls.
Conditions and diseases: Many diseases can cause or contribute to back pain. These include various forms of arthritis, such as herniated disk (occurs when disk material presses on a nerve), osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, and ankylosing spondylitis, and cancers from elsewhere in the body that may spread to the spine. Scoliosis, which causes curvature of the spine, does not usually cause pain until mid-life. Spinal stenosis, or a narrowing of the spinal column that puts pressure on the spinal cord and nerves, also contributes to back pain. While osteoporosis itself is not painful, it can lead to painful fractures of the vertebrae. Other causes of back pain include pregnancy, kidney stones or infections, endometriosis (the buildup of uterine tissue in places outside the uterus), and fibromyalgia (which causes fatigue and widespread muscle pain).
Emotional stress: Although the causes of back pain are usually physical, emotional stress may also play an important role in back pain and how severe and long it lasts. For example, stress may cause back muscles to become tense and painful.
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