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Ask Dr. Wahlquist: What Conditions May Cause Back Pain?

Dr. Wahlquist identifies the numerous problems and conditions that may cause back pain.

Why does my back hurt? It is a question that spine specialist Dr. Trevor Wahlquist hears often. “This is a simple question, but answering it requires specialized expertise. Evaluating back pain is complex because there are so many different suspects that can cause back pain. In addition, just because multiple factors are present doesn’t mean they are all contributing to the pain. Teasing out the guilty parties requires the multidisciplinary approach offered by Summit’s spine team.”

The factors that cause back pain aren’t always the usual suspects

People may be surprised to learn how many different conditions can potentially cause back pain. “The spine is a complicated structure,” says Dr. Wahlquist. “Diagnosing back pain is like solving a very involved puzzle. I always begin with a detailed history of the patient. As I ask questions and listen, I’m looking for possible pain suspects. And there are a lot of them to watch out for.”

Factors that can cause back pain

Mechanical problems: “This category of potential back pain describes pain you feel when you move or position your spine in certain ways,” says Dr. Wahlquist. “Pain with movement can be caused by muscle spasms or muscle tension. A ruptured or degenerating disc between the bones of the spine may also cause mechanical pain.”

Injury: “You can injure your spine by twisting or lifting in positions that put too much stress on your back. Improper lifting can create sprains or tears in the ligaments supporting the spine. Additionally, people with osteoporosis are at higher risk of fracturing vertebrae. An accident or fall can also damage the spine’s bony structure or tear supporting tissues.”

Stress: Stress can cause back pain when back muscles respond to stressful conditions by becoming tense.

Medical conditions and diseases of the spine: “Some of the medical conditions known to cause back pain are directly linked to the spine, but others are not,” Dr. Wahlquist notes. Spine conditions that can contribute to back pain include:

Other medical conditions and diseases that can cause back pain:

“I think it’s helpful for people to learn about the dynamics that can cause back pain,” concludes Dr. Wahlquist. “The more you know, the better equipped you are to partner with me. When you understand contributing conditions, you are less likely to dismiss information I need to track down the possible suspects. Working together, we can get you back on the road to recovery.”

Summit Orthopedics offers comprehensive spine expertise

Our back specialists diagnose spine problems and design custom treatment plans built on a conservative, nonsurgical approach. Most patients find relief through treatments including guided injections, specialized physical therapy, biofeedback, exercise, activity modification, and medication. When conservative care does not relieve symptoms, our highly skilled surgeons offer proven, evidence-based surgical options. Together with you, we will determine the right course of action.

Start your journey to a healthy spine. Find your spine expert, request an appointment online, or call us at (651) 968–5201 to schedule a spine consultation.

Summit has convenient locations across the Minneapolis-St. Paul metro area, serving Minnesota and western Wisconsin. We have state-of-the-art centers for comprehensive orthopedic care in Eagan, MNPlymouth, MN, Vadnais Heights, MN, and Woodbury, MN, as well as additional community clinics throughout the metro and southern Minnesota.

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