Back pain can range from a mild, dull, annoying ache, to persistent, severe, disabling pain. Pain in your back can limit your ability to move. It can interfere with normal functioning and quality of life. Always talk with your healthcare provider if you have persistent pain.

Neck pain occurs in the area of the cervical vertebrae in your neck. Because of its location and range of motion, your neck is often left unprotected and at risk for injury.

Pain in your back or neck area can come on suddenly and intensely. Chronic pain lasts for weeks, months or even years. The pain can be constant or come and go.

Causes of back & neck pain

Back and neck pain can have many different causes, including:

  • Overuse, strenuous activity, or improper use, such as repetitive or heavy lifting
  • Trauma, injury, or fractures
  • Breakdown of vertebrae, often caused by stresses on the muscles and ligaments that support your spine, or the effects of aging
  • Infection
  • Abnormal growth, such as a tumor or bone spur
  • Obesity. This put extra weight on your spine, and pressure on your disks.
  • Poor muscle tone
  • Muscle tension or spasm
  • Sprain or strain
  • Ligament or muscle tears
  • Joint problems, such as arthritis
  • Smoking
  • Slipped disk (protruding or herniated disk) and pinched nerve
  • Osteoporosis and compression fractures
  • Problems of your vertebrae and bones that you were born with (congenital)
  • Abdominal problems, such as an aortic aneurysm 

Symptoms of back & neck pain

Symptoms linked to back pain may include:

  • Dull, burning or sharp pain in your back. The pain can be limited to a single spot or cover a large area.
  • Leg numbness or tingling above or below your knee
  • Stiffness or aching that occurs anywhere along your spine from your neck to your tailbone
  • Sharp, shooting pain that spreads from your low back to your buttocks, down the back of your thigh and into your calf and toes
  • Consistent ache in the middle or lower part of your back, especially after standing or sitting for a long period

Symptoms linked to neck pain can be:

  • Arm numbness or tingling
  • Headaches
  • Shoulder pain
  • Sharp shooting pain or a dull ache in your neck

Your health care provider may also take x-rays or of the affected areas, as well as an MRI. This allows a more complete view.  The MRI also makes pictures of soft tissues such as ligaments, tendons, and blood vessels. The MRI can help spot infection, tumor, inflammation, or pressure on your nerve. Sometimes a blood test may help diagnose arthritis, a condition that can cause back and neck pain.

In many cases, acute back or neck pain may simply improve with some rest. Over-the-counter medicines, such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen, may also help with the discomfort. Try to move gently during this period, so that you won't become stiff and lose mobility.

If you have chronic pain of your back and neck, try several remedies before considering surgery. These include:

  • Hot or cold packs as advised by your health care provider
  • Certain exercises to strengthen muscles and ease pain, such as stretching and flexing. Your healthcare provider can show you these exercises. Physical therapy can also help you find the correct exercises.
  • Aerobic exercise may help with your overall fitness and strength
  • Certain anti-inflammatory medicines or muscle relaxants may be used, as advised by your provider
  • Braces or corsets for extra support
  • Shots (injections) for pain relief in the area
  • Nerve block, which eases pain signals from the affected nerve.
  • Acupuncture
  • Osteopathic manipulation

Marshall Neuroscience

An outpatient department of Cabell Huntington Hospital
Marshall University Medical Center
1600 Medical Center Drive
Lower Level
Huntington, WV 25701
Phone: 304-691-1787
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South Charleston, WV 25309
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Scott Depot, WV 25560
Phone: 304-691-6910

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