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Back pain symptoms

Most people experience some degree of back pain during their lives. The symptoms will vary depending on the part of the back that's affected - and the cause of the pain.

Lower back pain symptoms

Although the pain may be concentrated on the lower back area, it may also affect the front, side, or back of the leg or legs.

The pain may develop over many years, from causes such as poor posture.

The symptoms can also appear suddenly, perhaps after some heavy lifting or twisting the back awkwardly. Sometimes the cause of the pain will remain unknown.

Symptoms may be worse at night, while sitting or during some body movements.

Upper or middle back pain symptoms

Pain affecting the area from the base of the neck to the bottom of the rib cage, called the thoracic spine, is known as upper or middle back pain. The pain can appear dull, burning or sharp and muscles may feel tight or stiff.

If the symptoms are caused by a trapped or injured nerve, the pain may also affect the arms, legs and chest.


This can cause symptoms including pain in the lower back that travels down the buttocks into a leg or both legs.

Slipped disc

A slipped disc, also known as a prolapsed or herniated disc, occurs when a disc in the spine ruptures allowing the gel inside the disc to leak out and irritate a nerve, often the sciatic nerve causing sciatica. It can cause symptoms of pain to travel down a leg along with soreness in the lower back and muscles feeling weak and tight.

Ankylosing spondylitis

Ankylosing spondylitis can cause back pain symptoms affecting the lower back, buttocks neck and the joint connecting the pelvis to the spine, called the sacroiliac joint.


Arthritis symptoms can include back pain.

Frozen shoulder

Symptoms of a frozen shoulder include back pain starting at the shoulder.


Whiplash from an accident such as a car crash can cause neck and lower back pain.

Seek immediate medical advice if:

  • You feel numbness, tingling or loss of control in your arms or legs. This may indicate damage to the spinal cord.
  • The pain in your back extends downwards into the leg.
  • The pain increases when you cough or bend forwards at the waist.
  • The pain is accompanied by fever, burning sensation during urination or strong-smelling urine. You may have a urinary tract infection.
  • You have a loss of bladder or bowel control.
  • You have dull pain in one area of your spine when lying in or getting out of bed.


Next Article:

WebMD Medical Reference

Medically Reviewed by Dr Rob Hicks on May 17, 2017

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