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What are Some Types of Back Problems?

Lower back pain is often caused by sciatica.
Lifting a heavy object may result in acute back pain that can last a few days or weeks.
An illustration of a healthy spine and one with spinal osteoarthritis, one cause of back problems.
A herniated disc can be extremely painful and may limit mobility.
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  • Written By: Sheri Cyprus
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 20 November 2014
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There are many different kinds of back problems and each is marked by varying degrees and types of pain. Muscle strain and disc problems are typical causes of back pain. Some common types of back problems are sciatica, a herniated disc and osteoarthritis. Back problems may cause acute or chronic pain.

Chronic back pain lasts for at least several months. It may stop for some time and then return. Acute back pain is temporary pain that begins suddenly and lasts only a few days or a few weeks. Acute back pain may occur after lifting something heavy or twisting the back such as from slipping and falling. Both chronic and acute back pain can be mild to severe and in the upper or lower areas of the back.

Sciatica is a common back problem that involves the irritation of the sciatic nerve. The sciatic nerve starts at the lower back and goes through the pelvic area down the back of the leg. It is the largest nerve in the body. The main symptom of sciatica is pain that begins in the low back and continues down the back of the leg. Tingling, numbness or weakness in the back and legs may also occur.

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A herniated disc is a type of back problem that usually occurs in the lumbar spine. The lumbar spine is the part of the spinal column between the ribs and the hips. Discs are the cushioning material that help move and protect the backbone and a herniated disc occurs when a disc presses on the nerves around the spine. A slipped or ruptured disc is the same as a herniated disc. The natural aging process decreases the amount of cushioning between discs, so a herniated disc is more likely to occur in the elderly.

Osteoarthritis is another back problem that is more likely to occur with aging. Those over sixty are especially vulnerable to osteoarthritis. Osteoarthritis is a type of arthritis that destroys the joint cartilage, or cushioning protein, found between bones. Symptoms of back problems associated with osteoarthritis include a dull ache on one part of the spine when getting out of bed.

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