What Kind of Back Pain Do You Have?

Not all back pain is the same. Back pain can be divided into two types: mechanical and inflammatory. It’s important to distinguish the underlying causes and types in order to ensure you’re getting the proper treatment and preventing irreversible damage to your spine.

what-kind-of-back-pain-do-you-have-1 Photo: Shutterstock

Mechanical back pain is generally caused by injury, overuse, or pressure.

Mechanical back pain is generally caused by injury, overuse, or physical pressure on the vertebrae, ligaments, or muscles in the back. It’s often due to bad habits such as poor posture, incorrect bending and lifting motions, or poorly designed seating. Infection, accidents, repetitive strain, sports injuries, and bulging or ruptured discs can also play a role.

Inflammatory back pain may be caused by an autoimmune disease.

Inflammatory back pain may be caused by an autoimmune disease, which occurs when the immune system gets confused and attacks healthy cells in the body as if they were foreign cells. This leads to inflammation. Ankylosing spondylitis (AS) is one of the conditions that causes inflammatory back pain. Between 150,000 and 300,000 Canadians-many under the age of 40-are affected by AS, which can manifest as chronic back pain that lasts longer than three months. As of now, there is no cure. While the disease affects the spine, it can cause inflammation in other joints and tissues too.

Don’t brush off back pain.

Don’t assume that the cause of your back pain is wear and tear. It could signal a more serious medical condition that requires treatment. Early diagnosis is important because conditions that cause inflammatory back pain can worsen over time and cause spinal deformity. “With early treatment, we can help to manage the underlying autoimmune disease, relieve pain, and reduce inflammation. The goal is to keep the spine flexible and prevent permanent damage to the joints,” says rheumatologist Dr. Walter Maksymowych, Professor of Medicine at the University of Alberta.

Stand up to back pain.

Take the short 30-second quiz to learn more about what kind of back pain you might have. Resolving back pain can be complex. It’s possible to be affected by both types at the same time. See your doctor for a formal assessment.

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