Symptoms of Back Pain

Back PainBack pain is its own symptom. However, there are various ways to feel back pain, and your symptoms depend on what is causing your pain and where it is affecting your spine.

Your back pain may be acute or chronic. Acute pain lasts four to six weeks, but chronic pain is persistent, long-term pain—sometimes lasting throughout life. At times, people with chronic pain can have episodes of acute pain.

Back pain may be sudden and sharp—or it may be dull. Pain may occur with movement, and it may even occur with coughing and sneezing. You may also have numbness in your arms or legs.

If you have leg pain that travels from your back down your leg, that's often referred to as sciatica.

It's important to treat your back pain properly. Seek medical attention if your back pain persists—and seek immediate attention if you have back pain with any of the following emergency signs:

  • Pain is getting significantly worse
  • Pain affects every day activities
  • Severe symptoms
  • Groin or leg weakness or numbness
  • Arm or hand weakness, tingling, or numbness
  • Loss of bowel or bladder control
Updated on: 08/31/15
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Exams and Tests for Back Pain
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Exams and Tests for Back Pain

To diagnose the cause of your back pain, your doctor will need to do several tests. You'll have physical and neurological exams, and then you'll most likely need imaging studies, such as x-rays or CT scans. This will help confirm your diagnosis.
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