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What are the most common problems that lead to chronic back pain?

Back pain is one of the most common medical complaints among patients of all age groups, but especially middle aged and elderly individuals.  Some recent studies suggest the cost (both direct and indirect) to be between 50 and 100 billion dollars per year. Back pain can be caused by many different causes.  Pain can originate from the muscles, the small joints in the back, the discs, or the nerves.  Pain from the muscle is usually caused by either some minor trauma or some long term postural imbalance in the muscles.  Pain from the small joints is usually caused by joint degeneration due to arthritis and can be a normal part of aging, but may be worse in individuals with a long history of repetitive impact forces on the back.  Pain from the disc is usually caused when the disc bulges or tears, which is usually a result of either some impact trauma or as the result of disc degeneration which can be a normal part of aging.  Pain from the nerves is usually caused when a structure such as a bulging disc or bone spur pinch the nerve as it comes out of the spinal canal.  This can cause pain in the back as well as pain into the extremity that the nerve supplies. Fortunately, most episodes of back pain usually resolve on their own within a few weeks, without any specific treatment.  However in some cases the pain may turn into a more chronic condition that begins to impede an individual’s function and in those cases treatment by a medical professional is usually needed.

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