10 Frequently Misdiagnosed Causes of Back Pain

Back pain is a big deal.

Because so much of our lives happen while we are upright, it can be very uncomfortable and difficult to do the fun things and even the not so fun things that need to be done on an everyday basis.

Sometimes the source of back pain is simple muscle fatigue and other times it could be something much more serious.

Check out these causes of back pain that are often misdiagnosed.


1. Herniated Disc

When the fluid that is inside a spinal disc bursts through the disc wall, pain is in the cards.

This pain can be from the tear itself or from pinched nerves that are no longer cushioned by the once fluid filled disc.

Diagnosis typically is done with a simple physical exam, however it can involve a spine and disc CT scan or MRI.


2. Degenerative Disc Disease

As humans age, we naturally lose water in our body structures, discs included.

This can lead to weaker disc walls, worn down bones and decreased flexibility. Diagnosis often includes imaging scans, nerve function tests and strength tests.


3. Spinal Stenosis

When the spinal canal narrows at points where nerves pass through, there can be some pain.

This is spinal stenosis. Its most common cause is aging and it is diagnosed by a physical exam which your doctor will look closely at your balance, neurological function and when the pain occurs.


4. Osteoporosis

A bone density screening is often the most used diagnostic tool for osteoporosis, a condition that causes bones to weaken and lose density.

Although women over the age of 65 are more likely to experience osteoporosis, it can affect anyone of any biological sex and age.


5. Systemic Inflammation

Chronic inflammation throughout the body can spell disaster for the spine. Being intentional about your exercise, diet, alcohol consumption and lifestyle choices can do a lot to curb systemic inflammation.


6. Spondylolisthesis

Not only is spondylolisthesis a mouthful, it is also a big pain in the lower back. It occurs when a vertebrae slides forward and out of place, causing disc and nerve problems. Properly diagnosing this condition requires image tests like an MRI or a myelogram.


7. Spinal Fractures

Spinal fractures occur from a traumatic event such as a fall or a car accident. If a fracture goes untreated, it will be painful while it heals and if it fails to heal correctly, it may lead to chronic back pain.


8. Muscle or Soft Tissue Strain

An injury to the ligaments, tendons or muscles that are supporting the spine is certainly painful.

A strain can lead to muscle spasms and swelling. Typically these will resolve themselves on their own, but being conscious of the strain you place on your back and being intentional about supporting your back properly can help you avoid this type of injury.


9. Pinched Nerve

A pinched nerve is simply pressure being exerted on a nerve. Bone spurs and herniated discs are among the more common conditions that lead to pinched nerves. A diagnosis could include a spinal tap, ultrasound or electromyography (EMG).


10. Scoliosis

A curvature of the spine can result in back pain. Scoliosis typically will worsen over time, but when it’s caught in childhood, it’s easier to correct. When left untreated it can lead to nerve pressure and much more. A physical exam can detect scoliosis.

Now that we’ve covered some of the frequently misdiagnosed causes of back pain, you can take your concerns and questions to your health care provider to determine the best course of action to alleviate your back pain.