Back pain is pain felt in the back. Episodes of back pain may be acute, sub-acute, or chronic depending on the duration. The pain may be characterized as a dull ache, shooting or piercing pain, or a burning sensation. The pain may radiate into the arms and hands as well as the legs or feet, and may include paresthesia (tingling with no apparent cause), weakness or numbness in the legs and arms. The anatomic classification of back pain follows the segments of the spine: neck pain (cervical), middle back pain (thoracic), lower back pain (lumbar) or coccydynia (tailbone or sacral pain) with the lumbar vertebrae area most common for pain.
The pain may originate from the muscles, nerves, bones, joints or other structures in the vertebral column (spine). Internal structures such as the gallbladder and pancreas may also cause referred pain in the back.
Back pain is common with about nine out of ten adults experiencing it at some point in their life, and five out of ten working adults having it every year. However, it is rare for it to be permanently disabling, and in most cases of herniated disks and stenosis, rest, injections or surgery have similar general pain resolution outcomes on average after one year. In the United States, acute low back pain is the fifth most common reason for physician visits and causes 40% of missed days off work. Additionally, it is the single leading cause of disability worldwide.
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