Understanding Your Back Pain |

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UNDERSTANDING YOUR BACK PAIN

Runner sitting down after workout

What is back pain?
There are different types of back pain.

Back pain can be divided into two types:

Mechanical

Back pain that is caused by mechanical factors (mechanical back pain) such as injury or strain (e.g. falling down; repetitive strain)

Inflammatory

And back pain caused by conditions related to inflammatory back pain which can damage the structures in and around your spine.

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Mechanical vs inflammatory back pain:
which do you have?

Although symptoms can be similar, mechanical and inflammatory back pain have different causes and may need different treatments.

It is also possible to be affected by mechanical and inflammatory back pain at the same time. If you receive a diagnosis of mechanical back pain, it’s very important to tell your doctor if symptoms persist for more than three months.

MECHANICAL VS INFLAMMATORY BACK PAIN AT A GLANCE


SYMPTOMS

INFLAMMATORY

WHAT AM I FEELING?

Symptoms of inflammatory back pain include many of the same symptoms of mechanical back pain, but there are differences:

Alternates from one side of the buttocks and/or lower back to the other side

Pain or tenderness in areas where your tendons and ligaments join to your bones, like your heels, knees and ribs (enthesis sites)

Loss of movement or increased stiffness in your hips or lower back

Pain or tenderness on either side of your pelvis (known as the sacroiliac joints)

At what age does this type of back pain occur?

Usually starts at a young age (in those under 40)

How quickly does it develop?

Usually develops gradually Lasts
longer than 3 months

Better after rest?

NO - does not get better after rest

Also feels better with exercise

Stiffness in morning?

Morning stiffness that lasts more than 30 minutes

Gets worse at night, can wake you up during the second half of the night

MECHANICAL

WHAT AM I FEELING?

Symptoms of mechanical back pain include:

Pain

Muscle tension

Muscle stiffness

Weakness in legs or feet

A tingling or burning feeling that can travel down into the buttocks and legs

A throbbing or aching feeling

At what age does this type of back pain occur?

Can occur at any age

How quickly does it develop?

Can develop quickly

Better after rest?

YES - gets better after rest

Stiffness in morning?

Often felt as stiffness in the morning that lasts less than 30 minutes


CAUSES

INFLAMMATORY

How did this happen?

Inflammatory back pain is rooted in group of conditions called Spondyloarthritis

With these conditions, the immune system over-reacts and inflames healthy tissues in the body – including the back.

MECHANICAL

How did this happen?

Physical stress or pressure on the vertebrae, ligaments or muscles in the back

Injury, infection or trauma to the back


RELATED CONDITIONS

INFLAMMATORY

Other clues to what my back pain might be...

Family history of ankylosing spondylitis and/or psoriasis (red, scaly patches on skin, as well as changes to nails such as pitting or lifting from the nail bed)

Eyes: sudden eye pain, redness, blurred vision or sensitivity to light (uveitis, iritis)

Fingers and toes: swollen “sausage-like” digits (dactylitis)

Intestines and / or gut: inflammatory bowel disease or gut lesions, causing stomach pain or cramping, bloating or diarrhea

Joints: peripheral arthritis (pain, swelling or stiffness of the hip, shoulder joints, knees or wrists)

Chest: pain and tenderness along the breast bone

MECHANICAL

Other clues to what my back pain might be...

None

A SPECIAL REPORT:
BACK PAIN IN CANADA

LEARN MORE

Is your back pain mostly inflammatory or is it mostly mechanical?

It’s important to find out as soon as possible if some of your back pain is being caused by inflammation to avoid lasting damage to your back. There are treatments indicated to help relieve pain, and help alleviate symptoms of back pain, such as stiffness or inflammation.