Types of Back Pain

Why does my back hurt?

You’re not alone. Up to 80% of people in the United States will experience back pain at some point in their lives. And while the underlying source of pain may be different, the resulting symptoms often feel the same. That’s why people with inflammatory back pain can go undiagnosed for so long.

Suffering from back pain for 3 months or more? Talk to a doctor about your symptoms. Find a rheumatologist

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Inflammatory back pain

Inflammatory back pain is chronic—which means it never really goes away, even if its symptoms come and go. That’s because inflammatory back pain is usually caused by an underlying autoimmune condition.

Autoimmune conditions occur when healthy cells in the immune system attack each other and trigger an inflammatory response. The affected cells produce proteins that cause inflammation in the body.

If left untreated, inflammation can lead to painful symptoms, like lower back pain and stiffness. It may even damage the spine by causing the spine to fuse, which may cause debilitating damage that is irreversible.

Affects people before age 40 and sometimes as early as age 17.
Often affects people as early as late teens through age 40
Chronic back pain, stiffness, and changes in mobility lasting 3+ months.
Chronic back pain, stiffness, and changes in mobility lasting 3+ months
Symptoms worsen with inactivity, especially at night and in the morning.
Symptoms worsen with inactivity, especially at night and in the morning
Discomfort that disrupts sleep.
Discomfort that disrupts sleep
Moving and exercise tend to provide symptom relief.
Moving and exercise tend to provide symptom relief

Mechanical Back Pain

There are 2 types of back pain—mechanical and inflammatory. Mechanical back pain is a common type of pain that’s deep and agonizing in nature. The term “mechanical” means the source of the pain may be in the spinal joints, discs, vertebrae, or soft tissues. It could be from age, or caused by something external like a car accident. By contrast, inflammatory back pain has an internal source.

Symptoms can appear at any age.
Symptoms can appear at any age
Pain comes and goes; can be acute.
Pain comes and goes; can be acute
Rest and Relaxation can help ease symptoms.
Rest and relaxation can help ease symptoms
Pain may worsen with exercise.
Pain may worsen with exercise
When treated symptoms typically improve in 4-6 weeks.
When managed, symptoms typically improve in 4–6 wks

It’s really difficult to describe to people when it’s compounded. It’s day in and day out of joint pain…pain in the spine.


Not Just Back Pain

Inflammatory back pain isn’t something you can just brush off. Hear how real people describe the symptoms that motivated them to keep looking for answers.

Find a

Could your unexplained back pain actually be caused by axial spondyloarthritis (axSpA), an inflammatory arthritis of the spine? A rheumatologist may be the right doctor to help you find out. Your quiz results, and knowledge of your family history, could help your rheumatologist discover what’s causing your pain. Find a rheumatologist near you, and prepare for your appointment by learning your family history with this Family History Conversation Starter.


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