Which Disease Can Cause Back Pain

Back pain is an all-too-common ailment that affects millions of people worldwide. It’s one of the leading causes of disability and can significantly impact the quality of life. However, back pain is not a condition itself but rather a symptom of various underlying diseases. Understanding which diseases can cause back pain is crucial for accurate diagnosis and effective treatment. At Florida Medical Pain Management, we specialize in identifying the root causes of back pain and providing tailored treatment plans to alleviate discomfort and improve overall well-being.

Common Causes of Back Pain

Back pain can originate from a myriad of conditions, ranging from musculoskeletal issues to systemic diseases. Here are some of the most prevalent diseases and conditions that can cause back pain:

1. Degenerative Disc Disease

Degenerative Disc Disease (DDD) is one of the most common causes of chronic back pain. As people age, the intervertebral discs, which act as cushions between the vertebrae, begin to deteriorate. This degeneration can lead to disc herniation, bulging, or thinning, causing significant pain and discomfort.

  • Symptoms: Chronic pain that worsens with movement, numbness or tingling in the extremities, and decreased mobility.
  • Diagnosis: MRI or CT scans to assess the condition of the discs.
  • Treatment: Physical therapy, pain management medications, or, in severe cases, surgical intervention.

2. Osteoarthritis

Osteoarthritis is a degenerative joint disease that commonly affects the spine, especially in the lumbar (lower back) and cervical (neck) regions. The cartilage that cushions the joints wears down over time, leading to pain, stiffness, and reduced flexibility.

  • Symptoms: Stiffness, especially in the morning or after inactivity, localized pain in the back, and reduced range of motion.
  • Diagnosis: X-rays to visualize joint damage and MRI for more detailed images.
  • Treatment: Lifestyle changes, physical therapy, medications, and sometimes joint injections or surgery.

3. Spinal Stenosis

Spinal stenosis occurs when the spaces within the spine narrow, putting pressure on the spinal cord and nerves. This condition is most often caused by osteoarthritis-related changes in the spine.

  • Symptoms: Numbness, tingling, or weakness in the legs, difficulty walking, and back pain that eases when sitting or bending forward.
  • Diagnosis: MRI or CT scans to measure the degree of narrowing.
  • Treatment: Physical therapy, anti-inflammatory medications, and, in advanced cases, surgical decompression.

4. Herniated Disc

A herniated disc occurs when the soft center of a spinal disc pushes through a crack in the tougher exterior casing. This can irritate nearby nerves and result in pain, numbness, or weakness in the limbs.

  • Symptoms: Sharp or burning pain that radiates to the arms or legs, muscle weakness, and numbness.
  • Diagnosis: MRI to detect herniation and assess its severity.
  • Treatment: Physical therapy, medications, and sometimes surgery to remove the herniated portion of the disc.

5. Sciatica

Sciatica is a term used to describe the pain that radiates along the path of the sciatic nerve, which branches from the lower back through the hips and down each leg. It’s typically caused by a herniated disc or bone spur pressing on the nerve.

  • Symptoms: Sharp, shooting pain in the lower back, buttocks, and legs, usually affecting one side.
  • Diagnosis: Physical examination and imaging tests like MRI or CT scans.
  • Treatment: Pain relief medications, physical therapy, and, in persistent cases, surgical options.

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Inflammatory and Autoimmune Diseases

Inflammatory and autoimmune diseases can also lead to back pain. These conditions often involve chronic inflammation that affects the spine and surrounding tissues.

1. Ankylosing Spondylitis

Ankylosing Spondylitis (AS) is a form of arthritis that primarily affects the spine, leading to severe, chronic pain and discomfort. Over time, it can cause some of the vertebrae in the spine to fuse, resulting in a rigid spine.

  • Symptoms: Gradual onset of back pain and stiffness, which improves with exercise but not with rest, and in severe cases, a forward-stooped posture.
  • Diagnosis: Blood tests for genetic markers and imaging tests to detect changes in the spine.
  • Treatment: Physical therapy, anti-inflammatory medications, and biologic drugs to reduce inflammation.

2. Rheumatoid Arthritis

Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA) is an autoimmune disorder that affects the lining of the joints, causing painful swelling that can eventually lead to bone erosion and joint deformity.

  • Symptoms: Joint pain, swelling, and stiffness, primarily in the morning or after periods of inactivity.
  • Diagnosis: Blood tests for RA markers and imaging tests to assess joint damage.
  • Treatment: Disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs (DMARDs), biologics, and physical therapy.

3. Psoriatic Arthritis

Psoriatic Arthritis is a type of arthritis that affects some people who have psoriasis—a condition characterized by red patches of skin topped with silvery scales. This can lead to joint pain and swelling, including in the spine.

  • Symptoms: Pain, stiffness, and swelling in the joints, including the spine.
  • Diagnosis: Physical examination, medical history, and imaging tests.
  • Treatment: Anti-inflammatory medications, DMARDs, and biologics to manage symptoms.

Infectious Diseases

Certain infections can lead to back pain when they affect the spine or the surrounding tissues.

1. Osteomyelitis

Osteomyelitis is an infection of the bone, which can occur when bacteria or fungi invade the spine through the bloodstream or due to a direct infection from nearby tissues.

  • Symptoms: Severe back pain, fever, and sometimes swelling or redness at the injection site.
  • Diagnosis: Blood tests, MRI, or bone biopsy to identify the infection source.
  • Treatment: Antibiotics or antifungal medications and sometimes surgery to remove infected tissue.

2. Spinal Tuberculosis (Pott’s Disease)

Spinal Tuberculosis is a form of tuberculosis that affects the spine, leading to back pain and potential deformity. It is more common in regions with high TB prevalence.

  • Symptoms: Chronic back pain, fever, night sweats, and weight loss.
  • Diagnosis: MRI or CT scans, along with tests for TB bacteria.
  • Treatment: Long-term antibiotics specific to TB and sometimes surgical intervention.

Cancer and Tumors

Back pain can also be a symptom of cancer, either due to tumors within the spine or metastatic disease.

1. Spinal Tumors

Spinal tumors, whether benign or malignant, can cause significant back pain by compressing nerves or weakening the structural integrity of the spine.

  • Symptoms: Persistent back pain, often worse at night, unexplained weight loss, and neurological symptoms like weakness or numbness.
  • Diagnosis: MRI or CT scans to visualize the tumor, biopsy for definitive diagnosis.
  • Treatment: Surgery, radiation therapy, or chemotherapy, depending on the tumor type and location.

2. Metastatic Cancer

Cancers from other parts of the body can spread (metastasize) to the spine, leading to back pain. Common primary cancers that metastasize to the spine include breast, prostate, and lung cancer.

  • Symptoms: Progressive back pain that may be worse at night or with activity, neurological deficits, and systemic symptoms like fatigue.
  • Diagnosis: Imaging tests to detect metastatic lesions and biopsies to confirm the cancer origin.
  • Treatment: Systemic cancer therapies like chemotherapy or targeted therapy, along with pain management.

Structural and Congenital Disorders

Structural problems and congenital conditions can also be culprits of back pain.

1. Scoliosis

Scoliosis is a sideways curvature of the spine that often occurs during the growth spurt just before puberty. Severe scoliosis can be disabling and cause chronic back pain.

  • Symptoms: Uneven shoulders, waist, or hips, and back pain.
  • Diagnosis: Physical examination and X-rays to measure the curvature degree.
  • Treatment: Bracing in growing children or surgical correction in severe cases.

2. Kyphosis

Kyphosis is an excessive outward curvature of the spine, resulting in a hunched posture. It can occur due to developmental issues, osteoporosis, or other degenerative diseases.

  • Symptoms: Rounded back appearance, back pain, and stiffness.
  • Diagnosis: Physical examination and imaging tests like X-rays.
  • Treatment: Physical therapy, pain management, and sometimes surgery for severe cases.

3. Spina Bifida

Spina Bifida is a congenital defect where the spinal column does not close completely during fetal development, leading to potential nerve damage and back pain.

  • Symptoms: Varying degrees of mobility issues, back pain, and sometimes leg weakness or bladder problems.
  • Diagnosis: Prenatal screening or postnatal imaging tests.
  • Treatment: Surgical interventions, physical therapy, and supportive care.

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Other Potential Causes of Back Pain

Beyond the more common diseases, other factors can contribute to back pain, including:

1. Fibromyalgia

Fibromyalgia is a chronic condition characterized by widespread musculoskeletal pain, including in the back. It often coexists with fatigue, sleep, memory, and mood issues.

  • Symptoms: Widespread pain, tender points, fatigue, and cognitive difficulties.
  • Diagnosis: Based on patient history and physical examination; often a diagnosis of exclusion.
  • Treatment: Medications, physical therapy, and lifestyle changes.

2. Endometriosis

Endometriosis occurs when the tissue similar to the lining inside the uterus grows outside of it, often causing severe pain that can radiate to the lower back.

  • Symptoms: Pelvic pain, painful periods, pain during intercourse, and lower back pain.
  • Diagnosis: Pelvic exams, ultrasound, or laparoscopy.
  • Treatment: Hormonal therapies, pain relief medications, and sometimes surgery.

3. Kidney Stones

Kidney stones can cause severe pain that radiates to the lower back or sides. The pain occurs when stones block the flow of urine or irritate the urinary tract.

  • Symptoms: Severe pain in the back or side, blood in urine, nausea, and frequent urination.
  • Diagnosis: Imaging tests like ultrasound or CT scans.
  • Treatment: Pain management, hydration, and sometimes surgical procedures to remove stones.


Back pain can stem from a variety of diseases and conditions, each requiring a different approach to diagnosis and treatment. At Florida Medical Pain Management, we are committed to helping patients identify the underlying causes of their back pain and providing personalized treatment plans to restore their quality of life. Understanding the potential diseases that cause back pain is the first step toward effective pain management and recovery. If you’re experiencing persistent back pain, consult with our experts to explore your options and find relief tailored to your needs.

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For more information and to schedule a consultation, contact us today. Let’s work together to uncover the root cause of your back pain and embark on a journey towards a pain-free life.

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