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What is Back Pain?

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Many forms of arthritis and related conditions that affect the joints, muscles and/or bones can cause problems like pain, stiffness and swelling in the back. While any part of the back can be affected, the lower back is the most common site of arthritis back pain, most likely because it bears more of the body's weight.

The main two types of back pain are mechanical and inflammatory. The largest group is mechanical back pain, which includes strains and sprains, injuries, disc lesions, degenerative disc diseasespinal stenosisosteoarthritis and fractures of bone secondary to osteoporosis. The second largest group is inflammatory back pain. It can be caused by diseases such as ankylosing spondylitis, psoriatic arthritis, enteropathic arthritis, polymyalgia rheumatica and other forms of arthritis.

Some people also may have back pain that arises from inflammation in the soft tissues in the back and not the spine itself. Others may experience back pain because the sciatic nerve – which runs through the buttocks – is inflamed causing hip and back pain. Having scoliosis may also cause back pain. In this condition, the spine twists to one side instead of running straight up the center of the back. A small number of people can develop infections or tumors in the spine.

Who’s Affected?

Back pain is one of the most common health problems in the United States – 80 percent of adults report having had back pain at some time. It can occur at any age in both men and women.

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