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Learn about Back Pain

Low back pain is the second most common reason people see their doctor. It's often described as a dull continuous pain and muscle tenderness along the spine and lower back.

There are four types of back pain:

  1. Acute low back pain: back pain for less than six weeks but the pain does not move down your leg.
  2. Chronic low back pain: back pain for more than six weeks but the pain does not move down your leg.
  3. Acute sciatic pain: low back pain for less than six weeks with pain that moves down your leg.
  4. Chronic sciatic pain: low back pain for more than six weeks with pain that moves down your leg.

Although low back pain can be debilitating, 90 percent of people with low back pain improve with conservative home treatment and without the need for surgery.

Low back pain can happen after such activities as shoveling snow, lifting a heavy object, making a sudden movement or with an injury or accident.

When back pain occurs there usually is an underlying cause. Some of these underlying causes of back pain are:

  • A ruptured disk
  • Tiny fractures in the spine caused by osteoporosis
  • Degeneration of the spinal disks
  • Muscle strain
  • Spinal stenosis (a narrowing of the spinal canal)
  • Scoliosis and kyphosis (curvature of the spine)
  • Spasms of the supporting muscles of the back

Other causes of low back pain include:

  • Kidney stones
  • Bladder infections
  • Endometriosis
  • Ovarian cancer
  • Ovarian cysts

Learn more about how Swedish Medical Center's Spine Center can treat your back or neck pain with spinal surgery or other more conservative back pain treatment options.

Back Pain Resources: Exercises to strengthen your back

A diagram of what your symptoms may indicate (PDF file)