Types of Back Pain

Different types of back pain can overlap from condition to condition, and the pain can vary from person to person. Back pain can be dull or severe, intermittent or continuous, and it can impact different parts of the body. In many cases the aches, pain, and stiffness in the back will go away on their own with time. When back pain is more severe and is accompanied by weakness, numbness, and tingling in the arms and legs, it may require more aggressive forms of treatment.

General types of back pain include:

  • Muscle ache
  • Shooting or stabbing pain in the back or neck
  • Limited flexibility or range of motion of the back

More severe symptoms that require medical attention and possibly surgery include:

  • Pain after an accident or injury
  • Pain that is severe and doesn’t improve with rest
  • Pain that spreads down one or both legs
  • Arm or leg weakness, numbness, or tingling
  • Muscle spasms or atrophy
  • Problems standing or walking
  • Bowel or bladder problems
  • Fever

If you’re experiencing back pain, it is important to be seen by a specialist, ensuring that an accurate diagnosis is made and effective treatment is prescribed. At Weill Cornell Medicine, our specialists have advanced training in diagnosing and treating conditions of the spine.

Learn more about diagnosing and treating back pain.

Reviewed by: Eric Elowitz, MD
Last reviewed/last updated: September 2020

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