Back Pain

Quick Facts

  • Common concern in U.S.

  • Usually caused by overuse or strain.

  • Most back injuries only need supportive care.

Back Pain Doctors

Roy Thomas, MD

Roy Thomas, MD

Internal Medicine

Carlisle Livingston, MD

Carlisle Livingston, MD

Pediatrics / Internal Medicine

What is Back Pain?

Back pain is a very common concern. It is one of the main reasons for seeing a doctor in the US.

Causes of Back Pain

The back and spine have many structures and therefore many things can cause pain. Usually overuse or strain is the cause of pain.

  • Damage to the vertebrae (bones of the spine)
  • Damage to discs between the vertebrae
  • Arthritis
  • The spinal canal being to small
  • Pain from the surrounding muscles

Back Pain Treatments

The most common back injuries only need supportive care. This includes:

  • Remaining active (light exercise)
  • Massage
  • Applying Heat
  • Medications such as Tylenol and NSAIDs (ibuprofen)
  • Having a positive outlook and reducing stress

If supportive treatments do not help, sometimes physical therapy may be required.

What are some worrisome signs (red flags) with back pain?

  • Loss of urine
  • Increasing constipation
  • Numbness in groin or saddle region
  • Fever
  • History of cancer
  • Weakness in legs


Are there certain ages where back pain is more worrisome?

New back pain in the elderly is cause for concern and evaluation by a doctor.

Young children and young adults are more prone to certain arthritic causes of pain. Both of these groups warrant quicker evaluation.

Can stress cause back pain?

Yes, especially in the upper back and shoulders.

Can being overweight cause back pain?

Weight reduction and maintaining a healthy weight can help with chronic back pain.

Do I need imaging/x-rays for back pain?

Most patient do not need imaging. Back pain usually improves with supportive care. If there is no improvement or red flag symptoms, you may need imaging. Discussion with your doctor can determine when this is appropriate.

Do I need back surgery for back pain?

Surgery can usually be avoided. Surgery does not offer great pain reduction. If there are structural problems or neurologic problems, surgery may be required.