Back pain is often something we joke about or share common ground with as we get older. You may wake up with a crick in your back and take it simply as a sign of the times. Everyone has experienced back pain at some point in their lives, so it can be easy to dismiss it.

However, some types of back injuries are debilitating and require immediate attention. 72.3 million Americans suffer from chronic lower back pain. The spine is a complex structure, so there is no one cause for a spine injury.

Understanding back injury can help you seek the right treatment faster. This guide covers the different types of back injuries and what you can do about them. Read on to find out more.

Parts of Your Back Subject to Pain

Back pain is a personal experience, varying in intensity and affected area. Some people may have the same types of back pain but can manage it better than others. If you’re physically active, you will have a lower sensitivity to stimuli.

The back is also a complicated structure of nerves, muscles, and of course, the spine. Any of these are prone to injury. Anything from poor posture to excess labor or sudden twists can cause pain.

Stress, like lifting heavy objects, can strain the large muscles on your back. Poor posture or sitting for long hours can cause pain in your spinal nerves. Other parts of your back that may cause pain include the intervertebral discs and joints.

Pain Description

Identifying the underlying cause of back pain can be difficult. Before you get any diagnostic tests to confirm the cause of the pain, your physician will start with the symptoms. They may also conduct a physical exam and review your medical history to narrow down the culprit.

Understanding the type of pain you feel can help you reach a faster diagnosis. These are the three main ways to describe back pain.

Axial Pain

Axial pain is also known as mechanical pain. The pain itself can vary from person to person. It can be dull, sharp, constant, or sudden.

What sets axial pain apart is that it usually occurs in one area in your back. Axial pain often results from muscle or joint strains or tears in the disc.

Radicular Pain

This type of pain is also known as sciatica or radiculopathy if you also feel weak or numb. Radicular pain is the most intense kind of back pain you can experience. Some patients will experience it as searing or electrifying.

Radicular pain often goes through the nerves and exits through the spinal canal. This happens if you have an inflamed spinal nerve root. If you experience radicular pain in your lower back, it can spread to your legs.

Referred Pain

Referred pain can vary in intensity but usually feels dull or achy. This type of pain occurs most often in the lower back and can migrate to the groin and thighs. Unfortunately, this can make it difficult to distinguish from radicular pain.

Treatment varies greatly depending on the type of pain you’re feeling. It’s best to consult a spine doctor if you aren’t sure. Now that you know how to identify your pain, let’s move on to the different types of back injuries.

Sprain or Strain

Sprains and strains are the most common kind of back injury. These injuries can be sudden or build up over time. Strains happen when you twist and pull a muscle.

Sprains often occur after a bad fall or sudden movement. It can also happen if a joint gets displaced. If you suspect you strained or sprained your back, it’s best to address it immediately.

Waiting can allow the injury to get worse. The good news is that you can treat this injury at home. All you need is ice, pressure, and a bit of rest to reduce the swelling.

You may also supplement your healing with ibuprofen to alleviate pain. After two days, you can resume your normal day-to-day. If the pain persists or it starts affecting you more than it should, contact your physician.

Herniated Disc

Your vertebra consists of 24 bones, and between each of these is a disc that absorbs shock. This part of the back gives you flexibility and is what enables you to bend and twist. These discs have a hard exterior with a jelly-like center.

A herniated disc happens when the soft interior pushes through a tear on the outer part of the disc. This can irritate nearby nerves and cause muscle weakness, tingling, or numbness. Some patients also experience leg or arm pain.

While it sounds scary, a herniated disc does not usually warrant back surgery. Your spine doctor may suggest medication, physical therapy, or back injections for pain management and recovery.

Fractured Vertebra

A fracture in your vertebra is usually more concerning. This usually happens due to age but can also occur after trauma. This type of back injury may result in chronic back pain or a hunched posture.

Some cases will require surgical procedures, but they will be minimally invasive. Your doctor may also suggest physical therapy or a back brace.


Spondylolisthesis occurs when one of your vertebrae slips out of place. People can experience this after a fracture or from birth. Infection or disease can also wear down the vertebrae and cause spondylolisthesis.

Physical therapy can help in recovery as it strengthens the supportive muscles in your back. Spinal surgery is also effective.

Cervical Radiculopathy

Degenerative changes in bones or conditions like arthritis may result in cervical radiculopathy. This can also happen after rupturing a disc or any other injury that strains the nerve roots.

In early treatment, you can receive pain medications and attend physical therapy classes. If your injury affects your motor skills, surgery can help relieve the pressure in the nerve roots.

Types of Back Injuries and How We Can Help

Even if you’re familiar with the different types of back injuries, it’s always best to consult a professional for help. You should never leave back pain unchecked, especially if it affects your quality of life.

Our team at the Advanced Spine Center ensures that your concerns are heard. Contact us today, and allow us to get you started on the path to recovery.