What Causes Chronic Back Pain?

Spotlight on the Conditions that Commonly Cause Chronic Back Pain

Chronic back pain.
Chronic back pain. Yagi Studio/Getty Images

Back pain is one of the most common types of chronic pain: it affects millions of people every day. There are countless types of chronic back pain, however, they generally fall into one of four categories: mechanical back pain, back pain caused by injury, back pain caused by disease and back pain resulting from infection.

Mechanical problems are problems associated with the spinal column or surrounding muscles that may make you more susceptible to back pain.

These include conditions such as:

Back pain caused by injury includes accidents (such as a car crash or a fall) as well as repetitive damage over time. Some examples include:

  • Spinal fractures
  • Muscle sprains and strains
  • Ligament damage

Diseases or conditions can cause back pain if they target the back (a direct cause), or if they place excessive strain on the back (an indirect cause). Some examples:

Other medical conditions that can cause back pain include:

Infections or tumors are another potential cause of chronic back pain, though they are the least frequent cause of chronic back pain. Some examples include:

  • Osteomyelitis
  • Spinal abscesses or tumors (primary or metastasized)
  • Disk infections (diskitis)

Learn more about Types of Back and Neck Pain from about.com’s Guide to back and neck pain.


Medline Plus. Back Pain. Accessed 4/6/10. http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/backpain.html

National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases. Back Pain. ​​http://www.niams.nih.gov/Health_Info/Back_Pain/default.asp

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