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The Two Major Types of Back Pain

If you’ve ever experienced low back pain, you’re not alone. It affects almost everyone at some point and can interfere with daily activities and work. In fact, Americans spend billions of dollars each year on treatments for back pain, making it the most common cause of job-related disability. But did you know that there are two major types of low back pain? Understanding these types can help you better manage and address your back pain. Acute low back pain is more short-term and usually resolves within a few days to weeks, while chronic low back pain lasts for more than three months. Identifying the cause of back pain can be challenging, as it can result from various factors like injury, aging, and underlying conditions such as arthritis or herniated discs. By working with your healthcare provider and adopting appropriate treatment strategies, you can effectively manage and alleviate back pain for improved quality of life.

The Two Major Types of Back Pain

Types of Back Pain

Acute Low Back Pain

Acute low back pain refers to sudden and short-term episodes of pain in the lower back region. It typically lasts from a few days to a few weeks and is usually not associated with neurological symptoms. Acute low back pain is commonly caused by muscle strains or sprains, poor posture, trauma or injuries, and even simple movements like bending over to pick up an object.

Chronic Low Back Pain

Chronic low back pain is characterized by persistent pain that lasts for more than three months. It may be caused by various factors, including ongoing degenerative disk or joint disease, previous injuries or trauma, age-related factors, and even other underlying medical conditions. Chronic low back pain can significantly impact a person’s quality of life and often requires long-term management and treatment.

Causes of Low Back Pain

Trauma or Injury

Back pain can be triggered by sudden trauma or injury to the muscles, ligaments, or vertebrae in the lower back. This can occur due to activities like sports injuries, car accidents, or even lifting heavy objects improperly. Trauma or injury-related low back pain may result in sprains, strains, or fractures.

Degenerative Disk and Joint Disease

Degenerative disk disease and joint disease are common causes of low back pain, especially in individuals over the age of 50. As people age, the disks in the spine lose flexibility and fluid, leading to decreased cushioning between the vertebrae. This can result in pain, disk herniation, and spinal stenosis. Concurrent degenerative joint disease can also contribute to chronic low back pain.

Age-related Factors

Age-related factors, such as the natural degeneration of the spine and decreased muscle tone and strength, can contribute to low back pain. As individuals grow older, the disks become less flexible, lose fluid, and are more prone to tears and herniation. Weakening of the muscles and bones can also lead to chronic pain and reduced mobility.

The Two Major Types of Back Pain

Symptoms and Effects

Localized LBP

Localized low back pain refers to pain that is confined to the lower back region. It may be dull, sharp, or achy and can range from mild to severe. Localized LBP can impact mobility and daily activities, making it challenging to perform tasks that require bending, lifting, or prolonged sitting or standing.

Radiating Pain

Radiating pain, also known as referred pain, is when the pain spreads from the lower back to other areas of the body, such as the buttocks, hips, or legs. This type of pain is often caused by irritation or compression of the nerve roots in the lumbar spine and can result in conditions like sciatica.

Loss of Muscle and Bone Strength

With age and lack of physical activity, muscle and bone strength naturally decline. Weak muscles and bones in the lower back can lead to instability and increased vulnerability to injuries and pain. It is essential to maintain strength through regular exercise and proper nutrition to prevent or manage low back pain effectively.

Sprains and Strains

Sprains and strains occur when the ligaments or muscles in the lower back are stretched or torn due to sudden movements or overexertion. These injuries can cause severe pain, swelling, and limited mobility. Sprains and strains are common causes of acute low back pain and may require rest, ice, compression, and elevation (RICE) therapy for healing.

Contributing Factors


Arthritis, particularly osteoarthritis, can affect the joints in the spine and lead to chronic low back pain. The gradual deterioration of cartilage and the development of bone spurs can cause inflammation and discomfort. Managing arthritis through medication, exercise, and lifestyle modifications can help alleviate low back pain.


Excess weight places added stress on the lower back, increasing the risk of low back pain. Obesity can also contribute to the development of other conditions like degenerative disk disease and joint disease. Losing weight through a combination of healthy eating and regular exercise can reduce the strain on the lower back and alleviate pain.


Smoking can negatively impact the blood flow and oxygen supply to the spine, leading to poor healing, increased inflammation, and degenerative changes in the disks. Quitting smoking can improve blood circulation and promote better overall spine health.


During pregnancy, the body undergoes significant changes, including hormonal shifts and weight gain. These changes can strain the back muscles and ligaments, leading to low back pain. Pregnant individuals can benefit from exercises tailored to their condition, proper posture, and using supportive devices like maternity belts.


Chronic stress can contribute to muscle tension and poor posture, both of which can result in low back pain. Stress management techniques like meditation, relaxation exercises, and seeking support from loved ones can help alleviate low back pain associated with stress.

Poor Posture and Physical Health

Maintaining poor posture, such as slouching or sitting for prolonged periods, can strain the muscles and ligaments in the lower back. Lack of physical activity and weak core muscles can also contribute to low back pain. Practicing good posture, engaging in regular exercise, and incorporating strength training can improve overall physical health and reduce the risk of low back pain.

Potential Serious Conditions


In rare cases, low back pain may be a symptom of an underlying cancerous condition, such as spinal tumors. Persistent or worsening pain, unexplained weight loss, or other concerning symptoms should prompt immediate medical evaluation.


Fractures in the vertebrae can occur due to trauma or weakened bones related to conditions like osteoporosis. Fractures may cause severe pain, limited mobility, and require immediate medical attention.


Spinal infections can lead to low back pain along with other symptoms like fever, swelling, and localized tenderness. Prompt diagnosis and treatment are crucial to prevent further complications.

Spinal Cord Compression

Spinal cord compression occurs when there is pressure on the spinal cord due to factors like herniated discs, bone spurs, or tumors. This condition can result in severe pain, numbness, weakness, and even paralysis. Immediate medical intervention is necessary to address spinal cord compression.

Internal Conditions

Certain internal conditions such as kidney stones, urinary tract infections, or gastrointestinal issues can cause referred pain to the lower back. Addressing the underlying internal condition is essential for effective pain management.

Diagnosis and Treatment

Complete Examination

When experiencing low back pain, a thorough examination by a healthcare professional, such as a chiropractor or physician, is essential. The examination may include a review of medical history, physical assessment, and diagnostic tests (e.g., X-rays, MRI) to identify the underlying cause of the pain.

Collaboration with Other Healthcare Providers

In complex cases, healthcare providers may collaborate to develop a comprehensive treatment plan. This may involve referrals to specialists like orthopedic surgeons, physical therapists, or pain management specialists to address specific aspects of the low back pain.

Exercise and Dietary Recommendations

Regular exercise, including stretching and strengthening exercises, can help alleviate low back pain and improve overall spinal health. Healthcare professionals may provide personalized exercise recommendations based on individual needs. Additionally, maintaining a nutritious diet can support bone health and overall well-being.

Ergonomic and Work Modifications

Modifying workstations, improving posture, and using ergonomic equipment can reduce the risk of low back pain related to occupational factors. Healthcare professionals may recommend specific modifications or provide guidance on proper body mechanics to minimize strain on the lower back.

Spinal Manipulation

Chiropractic care often involves spinal manipulation techniques to restore proper alignment of the spine, reduce pain, and improve overall function. These manual adjustments are performed by trained chiropractors using gentle, controlled force.


Other treatment modalities may be used to alleviate low back pain, such as heat or cold therapy, electrical stimulation, ultrasound, or acupuncture. These modalities can help reduce inflammation, relieve pain, and promote the healing process.

Self-Management Strategies

Encouraging individuals to actively participate in their pain management is crucial. Healthcare professionals may provide self-management strategies, including proper body mechanics, exercises, stress management techniques, and lifestyle modifications to minimize low back pain and prevent future episodes.

Chiropractic Care

Convenient, Affordable, and Mainstream Care

Chiropractic care offers a convenient and affordable option for individuals seeking relief from low back pain. With a focus on non-invasive treatments and patient-centered care, chiropractic care has become mainstream, recognized as a valuable approach to managing low back pain.

Avoidance of Unnecessary Treatment Plans and Therapies

Chiropractors who have taken “The ChiroTrust Pledge” prioritize providing their patients with care that is both convenient and effective. They pledge to avoid unnecessary long-term treatment plans and therapies, ensuring that patients receive the most appropriate and beneficial interventions for their low back pain.


Seeking Professional Advice

If you are experiencing low back pain, it is crucial to seek professional advice from a healthcare provider, such as a chiropractor or physician. They can accurately diagnose the underlying cause of your pain and develop a personalized treatment plan to alleviate your symptoms and improve your overall spinal health.

Healthcare Professional’s Expertise

Utilizing the expertise of healthcare professionals, such as chiropractors, can provide valuable guidance and support throughout your low back pain journey. They can offer a comprehensive approach to diagnose, manage, and treat your low back pain, helping you regain mobility and enhance your quality of life. Remember, you don’t have to face low back pain alone – reach out to a healthcare professional today.

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