Low Back Pain

Welcome to the Low Back Pain Decision Guide

We're sorry your back is bothering you!

The goal of this guide is to provide information while awaiting evaluation with your doctor, or for additional information after you have seen him or her. Please keep in mind that this guide is not intended to replace a face-to-face evaluation with your doctor. The diagnoses provided are among the most common that could explain your symptoms, but the list is not exhaustive and there are many other possibilities. In addition, more than one condition may be present at the same time. For example, a person with rheumatoid arthritis could also have tendonitis.

Let's get started.

Please click to begin.

Sometimes back pain can be caused by a condition that needs immediate medical evaluation.

Do you have a history of any of the following:

cancer

fever with your back pain

severe or incapacitating low back pain

weight loss

recent significant trauma (such as a fall or car accident)

inability to control your urine or bowels?

Yes to one or more of the above.

No to all of the above.

That's good. Not having any of these symptoms makes it less likely that you have an infection, fracture or some other cause that needs emergency medical care.

Are your symptoms mild? For example, are you still able to do most or all of your usual activities?

Yes, my symptoms are mild.

No, my symptoms are severe.

One of the reasons back pain is so common is that the anatomy of the back is so complicated. In addition, with the usual activities of daily living, the back takes a lot of abuse.

Has your pain been present for less than three weeks?

Yes, I've been in pain for less than three weeks.

No, I've been in pain longer than three weeks.

Have you had any change in activity that might have triggered your back pain, such as playing a new sport or recent heavy lifting?

Yes, I've changed my activities.

No, I have not changed my activities.

Based upon your answers, your back pain could be due to a strain or sprain related to one of your daily activities that stressed the joint, tendons and/or ligaments around the back. It should improve over time.

To decrease pain, avoid overuse and try a heating pad (especially if pain has only been present for a day or two). Over-the-counter pain medications, topical treatments (such as Icy Hot or Ben Gay), or the application of ice might be helpful.

If symptoms are getting worse or do not resolve, consult your physician.

More information about your back pain may be helpful to better understand why it is hurting.

Please click to continue.

In addition to pain in your low back, do you have pain in other areas of your spine or in other joints?

Yes, I have pain in other joints, too.

No, I have no pain in my joints or other parts of my spine.

Does your low back pain move (or radiate) into one or both legs?

Yes, my back pain radiates.

No, my low back pain does not radiate.

Based upon your answers, some of the most likely causes of your back pain include

  • muscle strain or spasm

  • degenerative joint disease (or osteoarthritis)

  • ankylosing spondylitis (or a related condition).

To decrease pain, rest the back and avoid overuse. Over-the-counter pain medications, a heating pad, and topical treatments (such as Icy Hot, Ben Gay or ice) may help.

While these measures may help, it is important that you see a physician if symptoms are getting worse or not improving over time.

Based upon your answers, some of the most likely causes of your back pain include

  • disk disease

  • sciatica

  • spinal stenosis

  • spondylolisthesis

  • muscle strain or spasm.

Other, rarer, causes are also possible.

To decrease pain, avoid overuse and try over-the-counter pain medications, a heating pad or topical treatments (such as Icy Hot or Ben Gay).

While these measures may help, it is important that you see a physician if symptoms are getting worse or not improving over time.

Does your low back pain move (or radiate) into one or both legs?

Yes, my back pain radiates.

No, my low back pain does not radiate.

Based on your answers, some of the most likely causes of your back pain include muscle spasm or strain. Less likely is a fracture, from trauma or osteoporosis; other causes are also possible.

While over-the-counter pain medicines, a brace, rest and ice may be helpful, it is important that you see your doctor to evaluate these symptoms.

Based on your answers, some of the most likely causes of your back pain include

  • disk disease

  • sciatica

  • muscle spasm or strain or other minor injury.

More than one cause may present at the same time and other, rare causes, such as fracture, are also possible.

While over-the-counter pain medicines, a heating pad, and rest (balanced with activity) may be helpful, it is important that you see a physician to evaluate these symptoms.

Does your low back pain move (or radiate) into one or both legs?

Yes, my back pain radiates.

No, my low back pain does not radiate.

Based on your answers, some of the more likely causes of your back pain include

  • fibromyalgia

  • ankylosing spondylitis (or related conditions, called spondyloarthropathies)

  • a viral infection (as may occur with the muscle and joint pain during a flu).

Other, rarer, causes are also possible.

While over-the-counter pain medicines, a heating pad, and rest balanced with activity may be helpful, it is important that you see a physician to evaluate these symptoms.

Based on your answers, some of the more likely causes of your back pain include

  • fibromyalgia

  • disk disease

  • sciatica

  • spinal stenosis

  • ankylosing spondylitis (or related conditions, called spondyloarthropathies)

  • muscle spasm or strain.

More than one of these may be present at the same time and other, rarer, causes are also possible.

While over-the-counter pain medicines, a heating pad, and rest balanced with activity may be helpful, it is important that you see a physician to evaluate these symptoms.

Does your low back pain move (or radiate) into one or both legs?

Yes, my back pain radiates.

No, my low back pain does not radiate.

Based on your answers, some of the more likely causes of your back pain include

  • fibromyalgia

  • ankylosing spondylitis (or related conditions, called spondyloarthropathies)

  • a viral infection (as may occur with the muscle and joint pain during a flu).

Other, rarer, causes are also possible.

While over-the-counter pain medicines, a heating pad, and rest balanced with activity may be helpful, it is important that you see a physician to evaluate these symptoms.

Based on your answers, some of the more likely causes of your back pain include

  • disk disease

  • sciatica

  • fibromyalgia

  • ankylosing spondylitis (or related conditions, called spondyloarthropathies)

  • spinal stenosis.

Other, rarer, causes are also possible.

While over-the-counter pain medicines, a heating pad, and rest balanced with activity may be helpful, it is important that you see a physician to evaluate these symptoms.

In addition to pain in your low back, do you have pain in other parts of your back or other joints?

Yes, I have pain in other joints, too.

No, I have no pain in my joints or other parts of my spine.

Does your low back pain move (or radiate) into one or both legs?

Yes, my back pain radiates.

No, my low back pain does not radiate.

Based on your answers, some of the most likely causes of your back pain include

  • degenerative joint disease (also called osteoarthritis)

  • muscle spasm or strain

  • fracture (related to osteoporosis or spondylolisthesis).

Other, rarer causes are also possible.

While over-the-counter pain medicines, a heating pad, and rest may be helpful, it is important that you see a physician to evaluate these symptoms, especially if your back pain is not clearly improving over a number of weeks.

Based on your answers, some of the most likely causes of your back pain include

  • degenerative joint disease (also called osteoarthritis)

  • disk disease

  • sciatica

  • spinal stenosis

  • a muscle strain or spasm.

Less likely is a fracture (as may occur with osteoporosis or slippage of one vertebra on the one above or below it). It's also possible that you have some combination of these or a rarer cause of back pain.

While over-the-counter pain medicines, a heating pad, and rest (balanced with activity) may be helpful, it is important that you see your physician to evaluate these symptoms, especially if you are not improving over a number of weeks.

Does your low back pain move (or radiate) into one or both legs?

Yes, my back pain radiates.

No, my low back pain does not radiate.

Based on your answers, some of the more likely causes of your back pain include a compression fracture (related to osteoporosis or spondylolisthesis), muscle spasm or strain or a back injury that you may not even remember.

While over-the-counter pain medicines, a heating pad and rest may be helpful, it is important that you see your physician to evaluate these symptoms.

Based on your answers, some of the most likely causes of your back pain include

  • a compression fracture (related to osteoporosis)

  • disk disease

  • sciatica

  • muscle spasm or strain

  • spinal stenosis.

While over-the-counter pain medicines, a heating pad and rest may be helpful, it is important that you see your physician to evaluate these symptoms.

Does your low back pain move (or radiate) into one or both legs?

Yes, my back pain radiates.

No, my low back pain does not radiate.

Based on your answers, some of the most likely causes of your back pain include

  • degenerative joint disease (also called osteoarthritis)

  • muscle spasm or strain

  • polymyalgia rheumatica (PMR)

While over-the-counter pain medicines, rest (balanced with activity) and a heating pad may be helpful.

Even with this long list, there are still other possibilities.

While over-the-counter pain medicines, rest (balanced with activity) and a heating pad may be helpful, it is important that you see your doctor to evaluate these symptoms.

Based on your answers, some of the most likely causes of your back pain include

  • degenerative joint disease (also called osteoarthritis)

  • sciatica

  • disk disease

  • polymyalgia rheumatica (PMR)

  • spinal stenosis.

There are many other possibilities, however.

While conservative measures, such as heat, rest, and over-the-counter pain relievers may help, it is a good idea to see your health care provider for evaluation of your back pain.

Does your low back pain move (or radiate) into one or both legs?

Yes, my back pain radiates.

No, my low back pain does not radiate.

Based on your answers, some of the more likely causes of your back pain include

  • degenerative joint disease (also called osteoarthritis)

  • polymyalgia rheumatica (PMR)

  • a viral infection (as in the aches and pains of having the flu)

  • a muscle strain

  • a compression fracture related to osteoporosis.

Even with this long list, there are other possibilities as well.

While over-the-counter pain medicines, rest and heat may be helpful, it is important that you see a physician to evaluate these symptoms.

Based on your answers, some of the most likely causes of your back pain include

  • degenerative joint disease (also called osteoarthritis)

  • polymyalgia rheumatica (PMR)

  • disk disease

  • sciatica

  • spinal stenosis

  • compression fracture related to osteoporosis.

More than one of these may be present in the same person and there are other, rarer causes that could be responsible.

While over-the-counter pain medicines, a heating pad, and rest may be helpful, it is important that you see your doctor to evaluate these symptoms.

Based upon your answers, your back pain could be due to a strain or sprain related to one of your daily activities that stressed the joint, tendons and/or ligaments around the back; it should improve over time.

To decrease pain, avoid overuse and try a heating pad (especially if pain has only been present for a day or two). Over-the-counter pain medications, topical treatments (such as Icy Hot or Ben Gay), or the application of ice might be helpful.

If symptoms are getting worse or do not resolve, consult your physician.

More information about your back pain may be helpful to better understand why it is hurting.

Please click to continue.

In addition to pain in your low back, do you have pain in other areas of your spine or in other joints?

Yes, I have pain in other joints, too.

No, I have no pain in my joints or other parts of my spine.

Does your low back pain move (or radiate) into one or both legs?

Yes, my back pain radiates.

No, my low back pain does not radiate.

Based upon your answers, some of the most likely causes of your back pain include

  • a muscle strain or spasm

  • degenerative joint disease (or osteoarthritis)

  • ankylosing spondylitis (or a related condition).

To decrease pain, rest the back and avoid overuse. Over-the-counter pain medications, a heating pad, and topical treatments (such as Icy Hot, Ben Gay or ice) may help.

While these measures may help, it is important that you see a physician if symptoms are getting worse or not improving over time.

Based upon your answers, some of the more likely causes of your back pain include

  • disk disease

  • sciatica

  • spinal stenosis

  • spondylolisthesis

  • a muscle strain or spasm.

There are other, rarer possibilities, as well.

To decrease pain, avoid overuse and try over-the-counter pain medications, a heating pad or topical treatments (such as Icy Hot or Ben Gay).

While these measures may help, it is important that you see a physician if symptoms are getting worse or not improving over time.

Does your low back pain move (or radiate) into one or both legs?

Yes, my back pain radiates.

No, my low back pain does not radiate.

Based on your answers, some of the most likely causes of your back pain include muscle spasm or strain, or degenerative joint disease (also called osteoarthritis). Less likely is a fracture, from trauma or osteoporosis; other causes are also possible.

While over-the-counter pain medicines, a brace, rest and ice may be helpful, it is important that you see your doctor to evaluate these symptoms.

Based on your answers, some of the most likely causes of your back pain include

  • disk disease

  • sciatica

  • muscle spasm or strain, or other minor injury.

More than one cause may present at the same time and other, rare causes, such as fracture, are also possible.

While over-the-counter pain medicines, a heating pad, and rest (balanced with activity) may be helpful, it is important that you see a physician to evaluate these symptoms.

Does your low back pain move (or radiate) into one or both legs?

Yes, my back pain radiates.

No, my low back pain does not radiate.

Based on your answers, some of the more likely causes of your back pain include

  • fibromyalgia

  • ankylosing spondylitis (or related conditions, called spondyloarthropathies)

  • a viral infection (as may occur with the muscle and joint pain during a flu).

Other, rarer, causes are also possible.

While over-the-counter pain medicines, a heating pad, and rest balanced with activity may be helpful, it is important that you see a physician to evaluate these symptoms.

Based on your answers, some of the more likely causes of your back pain include

  • fibromyalgia

  • disk disease

  • sciatica

  • spinal stenosis

  • ankylosing spondylitis (or related conditions, called spondyloarthropathies)

  • muscle spasm or strain.

More than one of these may be present at the same time and other, rarer, causes are also possible.

While over-the-counter pain medicines, a heating pad, and rest balanced with activity may be helpful, it is important that you see a physician to evaluate these symptoms.

Does your low back pain move (or radiate) into one or both legs?

Yes, my back pain radiates.

No, my low back pain does not radiate.

Based on your answers, some of the more likely causes of your back pain include

  • fibromyalgia

  • ankylosing spondylitis (or related conditions, called spondyloarthropathies)

  • a viral infection (as may occur with the muscle and joint pain during a flu).

Other, rarer, causes are also possible.

While over-the-counter pain medicines, a heating pad, and rest balanced with activity may be helpful, it is important that you see a physician to evaluate these symptoms.

Based on your answers, some of the more likely causes of your back pain include

  • disk disease

  • sciatica

  • fibromyalgia

  • ankylosing spondylitis (or related conditions, called spondyloarthropathies)

  • spinal stenosis.

Other, rarer, causes are also possible.

While over-the-counter pain medicines, a heating pad, and rest balanced with activity may be helpful, it is important that you see a physician to evaluate these symptoms.

In addition to pain in your low back, do you have pain in other parts of your back or other joints?

Yes, I have pain in other joints, too.

No, I have no pain in my joints or other parts of my spine.

Does your low back pain move (or radiate) into one or both legs?

Yes, my back pain radiates.

No, my low back pain does not radiate.

Based on your answers, some of the most likely causes of your back pain include

  • degenerative joint disease (also called osteoarthritis)

  • muscle spasm or strain

  • fracture (related to osteoporosis or spondylolisthesis).

Other, rarer causes are also possible.

While over-the-counter pain medicines, a heating pad, and rest may be helpful, it is important that you see a physician to evaluate these symptoms, especially if your back pain is not clearly improving over a number of weeks.

Based on your answers, some of the most likely causes of your back pain include

  • degenerative joint disease (also called osteoarthritis)

  • disk disease

  • sciatica

  • spinal stenosis

  • muscle strain or spasm.

Less likely is a fracture (as may occur with osteoporosis or slippage of one vertebra on the one above or below it). It's also possible that you have some combination of these or a rarer cause of back pain.

While over-the-counter pain medicines, a heating pad, and rest (balanced with activity) may be helpful, it is important that you see your physician to evaluate these symptoms, especially if you are not improving over a number of weeks.

Does your low back pain move (or radiate) into one or both legs?

Yes, my back pain radiates.

No, my low back pain does not radiate.

Based on your answers, some of the more likely causes of your back pain include a compression fracture (related to osteoporosis or spondylolisthesis), muscle spasm or strain, or a back injury that you may not even remember.

While over-the-counter pain medicines, a heating pad and rest may be helpful, it is important that you see your physician to evaluate these symptoms.

Based on your answers, some of the most likely causes of your back pain include

  • a compression fracture (related to osteoporosis)

  • disk disease

  • sciatica

  • muscle spasm or strain

  • spinal stenosis.

While over-the-counter pain medicines, a heating pad and rest may be helpful, it is important that you see your physician to evaluate these symptoms.

Does your low back pain move (or radiate) into one or both legs?

Yes, my back pain radiates.

No, my low back pain does not radiate.

Based on your answers, some of the most likely causes of your back pain include

  • degenerative joint disease (also called osteoarthritis)

  • muscle spasm or strain

  • polymyalgia rheumatica (PMR)

  • fibromyalgia.

Even with this long list, there are still other possibilities.

While over-the-counter pain medicines, rest (balanced with activity) and a heating pad may be helpful, it is important that you see your doctor to evaluate these symptoms.

Based on your answers, some of the most likely causes of your back pain include

  • degenerative joint disease (also called osteoarthritis)

  • sciatica

  • disk disease

  • polymyalgia rheumatica (PMR)

  • spinal stenosis.

There are many other possibilities, however.

While conservative measures, such as heat, rest, and over-the-counter pain relievers may help, it is a good idea to see your health care provider for evaluation of your back pain.

Does your low back pain move (or radiate) into one or both legs?

Yes, my back pain radiates.

No, my low back pain does not radiate.

Based on your answers, some of the more likely causes of your back pain include

  • degenerative joint disease (also called osteoarthritis)

  • polymyalgia rheumatica (PMR)

  • a viral infection (as in the aches and pains of having the flu)

  • muscle strain

  • a compression fracture related to osteoporosis.

Even with this long list, there are other possibilities as well.

While over-the-counter pain medicines, rest and heat may be helpful, it is important that you see a physician to evaluate these symptoms.

Based on your answers, some of the most likely causes of your back pain include

  • degenerative joint disease (also called osteoarthritis)

  • polymyalgia rheumatica (PMR)

  • disk disease

  • sciatica

  • spinal stenosis

  • compression fracture related to osteoporosis.

More than one of these may be present in the same person and there are other, rarer causes that could be responsible.

While over-the-counter pain medicines, a heating pad, and rest may be helpful, it is important that you see your doctor to evaluate these symptoms.

Have you had any change in activity that might have triggered your back pain, such as playing a new sport or recent heavy lifting?

Yes, I've changed my activities.

No, I have not changed my activities.

Based upon your answers, your back pain could be due to a strain or sprain related to one of your daily activities that stressed the joint, tendons and/or ligaments around the back. It should improve over time.

To decrease pain, avoid overuse and try a heating pad (especially if pain has only been present for a day or two). Over-the-counter pain medications, topical treatments (such as Icy Hot or Ben Gay), or the application of ice might be helpful.

If symptoms are getting worse or do not go away, consult your physician.

More information about your back pain may be helpful to better understand why it is hurting.

Please click to continue.

In addition to pain in your low back, do you have pain in other areas of your spine or in other joints?

Yes, I have pain in other joints, too.

No, I have no pain in my joints or other parts of my spine.

Does your low back pain move (or radiate) into one or both legs?

Yes, my back pain radiates.

No, my low back pain does not radiate.

Based on your answers, some of the most likely causes of your back pain include

  • degenerative joint disease (also called osteoarthritis)

  • muscle spasm or strain

  • fracture (related to osteoporosis or spondylolisthesis).

Other, rarer causes are also possible.

While over-the-counter pain medicines, a heating pad, and rest may be helpful, it is important that you see a physician to evaluate these symptoms, especially if your back pain is not clearly improving over a number of weeks.

Based on your answers, some of the most likely causes of your back pain include

  • degenerative joint disease (also called osteoarthritis)

  • disk disease

  • sciatica

  • spinal stenosis

  • a muscle strain or spasm.

Less likely is a fracture (as may occur with osteoporosis or slippage of one vertebra on the one above or below it). It's also possible that you have some combination of these or a rarer cause of back pain.

While over-the-counter pain medicines, a heating pad, and rest (balanced with activity) may be helpful, it is important that you see your physician to evaluate these symptoms, especially if you are not improving over a number of weeks.

Does your low back pain move (or radiate) into one or both legs?

Yes, my back pain radiates.

No, my low back pain does not radiate.

Based on your answers, some of the more likely causes of your back pain include a compression fracture (related to osteoporosis or spondylolisthesis), muscle spasm or strain, or a back injury that you may not even remember.

While over-the-counter pain medicines, a heating pad and rest may be helpful, it is important that you see your physician to evaluate these symptoms.

Based on your answers, some of the most likely causes of your back pain include

  • a compression fracture (related to osteoporosis)

  • disk disease

  • sciatica

  • muscle spasm or strain

  • spinal stenosis.

While over-the-counter pain medicines, a heating pad and rest may be helpful, it is important that you see your physician to evaluate these symptoms.

Does your low back pain move (or radiate) into one or both legs?

Yes, my back pain radiates.

No, my low back pain does not radiate.

Based on your answers, some of the most likely causes of your back pain include

  • degenerative joint disease (also called osteoarthritis)

  • muscle spasm or strain

  • fracture (related to osteoporosis or spondylolisthesis).

Other, rarer causes are also possible.

While over-the-counter pain medicines, a heating pad, and rest may be helpful, it is important that you see a physician to evaluate these symptoms, especially if your back pain is not clearly improving over a number of weeks.

Based on your answers, some of the most likely causes of your back pain include

  • degenerative joint disease (also called osteoarthritis)

  • disk disease

  • sciatica

  • spinal stenosis

  • a muscle strain or spasm.

Less likely is a fracture (as may occur with osteoporosis or slippage of one vertebra on the one above or below it). It's also possible that you have some combination of these or a rarer cause of back pain.

While over-the-counter pain medicines, a heating pad, and rest (balanced with activity) may be helpful, it is important that you see your physician to evaluate these symptoms, especially if you are not improving over a number of weeks.

Does your low back pain move (or radiate) into one or both legs?

Yes, my back pain radiates.

No, my low back pain does not radiate.

Based on your answers, some of the more likely causes of your back pain include a compression fracture (related to osteoporosis or spondylolisthesis), muscle spasm or strain, or a back injury that you may not even remember.

While over-the-counter pain medicines, a heating pad and rest may be helpful, it is important that you see your physician to evaluate these symptoms.

Based on your answers, some of the most likely causes of your back pain include

  • a compression fracture (related to osteoporosis)

  • disk disease

  • sciatica

  • muscle spasm or strain

  • spinal stenosis.

While over-the-counter pain medicines, a heating pad and rest may be helpful, it is important that you see your physician to evaluate these symptoms.

In addition to pain in your low back, do you have pain in other parts of your back or other joints?

Yes, I have pain in other joints, too.

No, I have no pain in my joints or other parts of my spine.

Does your low back pain move (or radiate) into one or both legs?

Yes, my back pain radiates.

No, my low back pain does not radiate.

Based on your answers, some of the most likely causes of your back pain include

  • degenerative joint disease (also called osteoarthritis)

  • muscle spasm or strain

  • polymyalgia rheumatica (PMR)

  • fibromyalgia.

Even with this long list, there are still other possibilities.

While over-the-counter pain medicines, rest (balanced with activity) and a heating pad may be helpful, it is important that you see your doctor to evaluate these symptoms.

Based on your answers, some of the most likely causes of your back pain include

  • degenerative joint disease (also called osteoarthritis)

  • sciatica

  • disk disease

  • polymyalgia rheumatica (PMR)

  • spinal stenosis.

There are many other possibilities, however.

While conservative measures, such as heat, rest, and over-the-counter pain relievers may help, it is a good idea to see your health care provider for evaluation of your back pain.

Does your low back pain move (or radiate) into one or both legs?

Yes, my back pain radiates.

No, my low back pain does not radiate.

Based on your answers, some of the more likely causes of your back pain include

  • degenerative joint disease (also called osteoarthritis)

  • polymyalgia rheumatica (PMR)

  • a viral infection (as in the aches and pains of having the flu)

  • a muscle strain

  • a compression fracture related to osteoporosis.

Even with this long list, there are other possibilities as well.

While over-the-counter pain medicines, rest and heat may be helpful, it is important that you see a physician to evaluate these symptoms.

Based on your answers, some of the most likely causes of your back pain include

  • degenerative joint disease (also called osteoarthritis)

  • polymyalgia rheumatica (PMR)

  • disk disease

  • sciatica

  • spinal stenosis

  • compression fracture related to osteoporosis.

More than one of these may be present in the same person and there are other, rarer causes that could be responsible.

While over-the-counter pain medicines, a heating pad, and rest may be helpful, it is important that you see your doctor to evaluate these symptoms.

Does your low back pain move (or radiate) into one or both legs?

Yes, my back pain radiates.

No, my low back pain does not radiate.

Based on your answers, some of the most likely causes of your back pain include

  • degenerative joint disease (also called osteoarthritis)

  • muscle spasm or strain

  • polymyalgia rheumatica (PMR)

  • fibromyalgia.

Even with this long list, there are still other possibilities.

While over-the-counter pain medicines, rest (balanced with activity) and a heating pad may be helpful, it is important that you see your doctor to evaluate these symptoms.

Based on your answers, some of the most likely causes of your back pain include

  • degenerative joint disease (also called osteoarthritis)

  • sciatica

  • disk disease

  • polymyalgia rheumatica (PMR)

  • spinal stenosis.

There are many other possibilities, however.

While conservative measures, such as heat, rest, and over-the-counter pain relievers may help, it is a good idea to see your health care provider for evaluation of your back pain.

Does your low back pain move (or radiate) into one or both legs?

Yes, my back pain radiates.

No, my low back pain does not radiate.

Based on your answers, some of the more likely causes of your back pain include

  • degenerative joint disease (also called osteoarthritis)

  • polymyalgia rheumatica (PMR)

  • a viral infection (as in the aches and pains of having the flu)

  • a muscle strain

  • a compression fracture related to osteoporosis.

Even with this long list, there are other possibilities as well.

While over-the-counter pain medicines, rest and heat may be helpful, it is important that you see a physician to evaluate these symptoms.

Based on your answers, some of the most likely causes of your back pain include

  • degenerative joint disease (also called osteoarthritis)

  • polymyalgia rheumatica (PMR)

  • disk disease

  • sciatica

  • spinal stenosis

  • compression fracture related to osteoporosis.

More than one of these may be present in the same person and there are other, rarer causes that could be responsible.

While over-the-counter pain medicines, a heating pad, and rest may be helpful, it is important that you see your doctor to evaluate these symptoms.

Based upon your answers, your back pain could be due to a strain or sprain related to one of your daily activities that stressed the joint, tendons and/or ligaments around the back; it should improve over time.

To decrease pain, avoid overuse and try a heating pad (especially if pain has only been present for a day or two). Over-the-counter pain medications, topical treatments (such as Icy Hot or Ben Gay), or the application of ice might be helpful.

If symptoms are getting worse or do not resolve, consult your physician.

More information about your back pain may be helpful to better understand why it is hurting.

Please click to continue.

In addition to pain in your low back, do you have pain in other areas of your spine or in other joints?

Yes, I have pain in other joints, too.

No, I have no pain in my joints or other parts of my spine.

Does your low back pain move (or radiate) into one or both legs?

Yes, my back pain radiates.

No, my low back pain does not radiate.

Based upon your answers, some of the most likely causes of your back pain include

  • muscle strain or spasm

  • degenerative joint disease (or osteoarthritis)

  • ankylosing spondylitis (or related conditions).

To decrease pain, rest the back and avoid overuse. Over-the-counter pain medications, a heating pad, and topical treatments (such as Icy Hot, Ben Gay or ice) may help.

While these measures may help, it is important that you see a physician if symptoms are getting worse or not improving over time.

Based upon your answers, some of the more likely causes of your back pain include

  • disk disease

  • sciatica

  • spinal stenosis

  • spondylolisthesis

  • muscle strain or spasm.

There are other, rarer possibilities, as well.

To decrease pain, avoid overuse and try over-the-counter pain medications, a heating pad or topical treatments (such as Icy Hot or Ben Gay).

While these measures may help, it is important that you see a physician if symptoms are getting worse or not improving over time.

Does your low back pain move (or radiate) into one or both legs?

Yes, my back pain radiates.

No, my low back pain does not radiate.

Based on your answers, some of the most likely causes of your back pain include muscle spasm or strain, or degenerative joint disease (osteoarthritis). Less likely is a fracture, from trauma or osteoporosis; other causes are also possible.

While over-the-counter pain medicines, a brace, rest and ice may be helpful, it is important that you see your doctor to evaluate these symptoms.

Based on your answers, some of the most likely causes of your back pain include

  • disk disease

  • sciatica

  • muscle spasm or strain or other minor injury.

More than one cause may present at the same time and other, rare causes, such as fracture, are also possible.

While over-the-counter pain medicines, a heating pad, and rest (balanced with activity) may be helpful, it is important that you see a physician to evaluate these symptoms.

Does your low back pain move (or radiate) into one or both legs?

Yes, my back pain radiates.

No, my low back pain does not radiate.

Based on your answers, some of the more likely causes of your back pain include

  • fibromyalgia

  • ankylosing spondylitis (or related conditions, called spondyloarthropathies)

  • or a viral infection (as may occur with the muscle and joint pain during a flu).

Other, rarer, causes are also possible.

While over-the-counter pain medicines, a heating pad, and rest balanced with activity may be helpful, it is important that you see a physician to evaluate these symptoms.

Based on your answers, some of the more likely causes of your back pain include

  • fibromyalgia

  • disk disease

  • sciatica

  • spinal stenosis

  • ankylosing spondylitis (or related conditions, called spondyloarthropathies)

  • muscle spasm or strain.

More than one of these may be present at the same time and other, rarer, causes are also possible.

While over-the-counter pain medicines, a heating pad, and rest balanced with activity may be helpful, it is important that you see a physician to evaluate these symptoms.

Does your low back pain move (or radiate) into one or both legs?

Yes, my back pain radiates.

No, my low back pain does not radiate.

Based on your answers, some of the more likely causes of your back pain include

  • fibromyalgia

  • ankylosing spondylitis (or related conditions, called spondyloarthropathies)

  • or a viral infection (as may occur with the muscle and joint pain during a flu).

Other, rarer, causes are also possible.

While over-the-counter pain medicines, a heating pad, and rest balanced with activity may be helpful, it is important that you see a physician to evaluate these symptoms.

Based on your answers, some of the more likely causes of your back pain include

  • disk disease

  • sciatica

  • fibromyalgia

  • ankylosing spondylitis (or related conditions, called spondyloarthropathies)

  • spinal stenosis.

Other, rarer, causes are also possible.

While over-the-counter pain medicines, a heating pad, and rest balanced with activity may be helpful, it is important that you see a physician to evaluate these symptoms.

In addition to pain in your low back, do you have pain in other parts of your back or other joints?

Yes, I have pain in other joints, too.

No, I have no pain in my joints or other parts of my spine.

Does your low back pain move (or radiate) into one or both legs?

Yes, my back pain radiates.

No, my low back pain does not radiate.

Based on your answers, some of the most likely causes of your back pain include

  • degenerative joint disease (also called osteoarthritis)

  • muscle spasm or strain

  • fracture (related to osteoporosis or spondylolisthesis).

Other, rarer causes are also possible.

While over-the-counter pain medicines, a heating pad, and rest may be helpful, it is important that you see a physician to evaluate these symptoms, especially if your back pain is not clearly improving over a number of weeks.

Based on your answers, some of the most likely causes of your back pain include

  • degenerative joint disease (also called osteoarthritis)

  • disk disease

  • sciatica

  • spinal stenosis

  • and muscle strain or spasm.

Less likely is a fracture (as may occur with osteoporosis or slippage of one vertebra on the one above or below it).

It's also possible that you have some combination of these or a rarer cause of back pain.

While over-the-counter pain medicines, a heating pad, and rest (balanced with activity) may be helpful, it is important that you see your physician to evaluate these symptoms, especially if you are not improving over a number of weeks.

Does your low back pain move (or radiate) into one or both legs?

Yes, my back pain radiates.

No, my low back pain does not radiate.

Based on your answers, some of the more likely causes of your back pain include a compression fracture (related to osteoporosis or spondylolisthesis), muscle spasm or strain, or a back injury that you may not even remember.

While over-the-counter pain medicines, a heating pad and rest may be helpful, it is important that you see your physician to evaluate these symptoms.

Based on your answers, some of the most likely causes of your back pain include

  • a compression fracture (related to osteoporosis)

  • disk disease

  • sciatica

  • muscle spasm or strain

  • spinal stenosis.

While over-the-counter pain medicines, a heating pad and rest may be helpful, it is important that you see your physician to evaluate these symptoms.

Does your low back pain move (or radiate) into one or both legs?

Yes, my back pain radiates.

No, my low back pain does not radiate.

Based on your answers, some of the most likely causes of your back pain include

  • degenerative joint disease (also called osteoarthritis)

  • muscle spasm or strain

  • polymyalgia rheumatica (PMR)

  • fibromyalgia.

Even with this long list, there are still other possibilities.

While over-the-counter pain medicines, rest (balanced with activity) and a heating pad may be helpful, it is important that you see your doctor to evaluate these symptoms.

Based on your answers, some of the most likely causes of your back pain include

  • degenerative joint disease (also called osteoarthritis)

  • sciatica

  • disk disease

  • polymyalgia rheumatica (PMR)

  • spinal stenosis.

There are many other possibilities, however.

While conservative measures, such as heat, rest, and over-the-counter pain relievers may help, it is a good idea to see your health care provider for evaluation of your back pain.

Does your low back pain move (or radiate) into one or both legs?

Yes, my back pain radiates.

No, my low back pain does not radiate.

Based on your answers, some of the more likely causes of your back pain include

  • degenerative joint disease (also called osteoarthritis)

  • polymyalgia rheumatica (PMR)

  • a viral infection (as in the aches and pains of having the flu)

  • a muscle strain

  • a compression fracture related to osteoporosis.

Even with this long list, there are other possibilities as well.

While over-the-counter pain medicines, rest and heat may be helpful, it is important that you see a physician to evaluate these symptoms.

Based on your answers, some of the most likely causes of your back pain include

  • degenerative joint disease (also called osteoarthritis)

  • polymyalgia rheumatica (PMR)

  • disk disease

  • sciatica

  • spinal stenosis

  • compression fracture related to osteoporosis.

More than one of these may be present in the same person and there are other, rarer causes that could be responsible.

While over-the-counter pain medicines, a heating pad, and rest may be helpful, it is important that you see your doctor to evaluate these symptoms.

One of the reasons back pain is so common is that the anatomy of the back is so complicated. In addition, with the usual activities of daily living, the back takes a lot of abuse.

Has your mild pain been present for less than three weeks?

Yes, I've been in pain for less than three weeks.

No, I've been in pain longer than three weeks.

Have you had any change in activity that might have triggered your back pain, such as playing a new sport or recent heavy lifting?

Yes, I've changed my activities.

No, I have not changed my activities.

Based upon your answers, your back pain could be due to a strain or sprain related to one of your daily activities that stressed the joint, tendons and/or ligaments around the back; it should improve over time.

To decrease pain, avoid overuse and try a heating pad (especially if pain has only been present for a day or two). Over-the-counter pain medications, topical treatments (such as Icy Hot or Ben Gay), or the application of ice might be helpful.

If symptoms are getting worse or do not go away, consult your physician.

More information about your back pain may be helpful to better understand why it is hurting.

Please click to continue.

In addition to pain in your low back, do you have pain in other areas of your spine or in other joints?

Yes, I have pain in other joints, too.

No, I have no pain in my joints or other parts of my spine.

Does your low back pain move (or radiate) into one or both legs?

Yes, my back pain radiates.

No, my low back pain does not radiate.

Based upon your answers, some of the most likely causes of your back pain include

  • muscle strain or spasm

  • degenerative joint disease (or osteoarthritis)

  • ankylosing spondylitis (or a related condition).

To decrease pain, rest the back and avoid overuse. Over-the-counter pain medications, a heating pad, and topical treatments (such as Icy Hot, Ben Gay or ice) may help.

While these measures may help, it is important that you see a physician if symptoms are getting worse or not improving over time.

Based upon your answers, some of the most likely causes of your back pain include

  • sciatica

  • disk disease

  • spinal stenosis

  • spondylolisthesis

  • muscle strain or spasm.

There are other, rarer possibilities, as well.

To decrease pain, avoid overuse and try over-the-counter pain medications, a heating pad or topical treatments (such as Icy Hot or Ben Gay).

While these measures may help, it is important that you see a physician if symptoms are getting worse or not improving over time.

Does your low back pain move (or radiate) into one or both legs?

Yes, my back pain radiates.

No, my low back pain does not radiate.

Based on your answers, some of the most likely causes of your back pain include muscle spasm or strain or sciatica.

Less likely is a fracture, from trauma or osteoporosis; other causes are also possible.

While over-the-counter pain medicines, a brace, rest and ice may be helpful, it is important that you see your doctor to evaluate these symptoms.

Based on your answers, some of the most likely causes of your back pain include

  • disk disease

  • sciatica

  • muscle spasm or strain, or other minor injury.

More than one cause may present at the same time and other, rare causes, such as fracture, are also possible.

While over-the-counter pain medicines, a heating pad, and rest (balanced with activity) may be helpful, it is important that you see a physician to evaluate these symptoms.

Does your low back pain move (or radiate) into one or both legs?

Yes, my back pain radiates.

No, my low back pain does not radiate.

Based on your answers, some of the more likely causes of your back pain include

  • fibromyalgia

  • ankylosing spondylitis (or related conditions, called spondyloarthropathies)

  • or a viral infection (as may occur with the muscle and joint pain during a flu).

Other, rarer, causes are also possible.

While over-the-counter pain medicines, a heating pad, and rest balanced with activity may be helpful, it is important that you see a physician to evaluate these symptoms.

Based on your answers, some of the more likely causes of your back pain include

  • fibromyalgia

  • disk disease

  • sciatica

  • spinal stenosis

  • ankylosing spondylitis (or related conditions, called spondyloarthropathies)

  • muscle spasm or strain.

More than one of these may be present at the same time and other, rarer, causes are also possible.

While over-the-counter pain medicines, a heating pad, and rest balanced with activity may be helpful, it is important that you see a physician to evaluate these symptoms.

Does your low back pain move (or radiate) into one or both legs?

Yes, my back pain radiates.

No, my low back pain does not radiate.

Based on your answers, some of the more likely causes of your back pain include

  • fibromyalgia

  • ankylosing spondylitis (or related conditions, called spondyloarthropathies)

  • or a viral infection (as may occur with the muscle and joint pain during a flu).

Other, rarer, causes are also possible.

While over-the-counter pain medicines, a heating pad, and rest balanced with activity may be helpful, it is important that you see a physician to evaluate these symptoms.

Based on your answers, some of the more likely causes of your back pain include

  • disk disease

  • sciatica

  • fibromyalgia

  • ankylosing spondylitis (or related conditions, called spondyloarthropathies)

  • spinal stenosis.

Other, rarer, causes are also possible.

While over-the-counter pain medicines, a heating pad, and rest balanced with activity may be helpful, it is important that you see a physician to evaluate these symptoms.

In addition to pain in your low back, do you have pain in other parts of your back or other joints?

Yes, I have pain in other joints, too.

No, I have no pain in my joints or other parts of my spine.

Does your low back pain move (or radiate) into one or both legs?

Yes, my back pain radiates.

No, my low back pain does not radiate.

Based on your answers, some of the most likely causes of your back pain include

  • degenerative joint disease (also called osteoarthritis)

  • muscle spasm or strain

  • fracture (related to osteoporosis or spondylolisthesis).

Other, rarer causes are also possible.

While over-the-counter pain medicines, a heating pad, and rest may be helpful, it is important that you see a physician to evaluate these symptoms, especially if your back pain is not clearly improving over a number of weeks.

Based on your answers, some of the most likely causes of your back pain include

  • degenerative joint disease (also called osteoarthritis)

  • disk disease

  • sciatica

  • spinal stenosis

  • muscle strain or spasm.

Less likely is a fracture (as may occur with osteoporosis or slippage of one vertebra on the one above or below it). It's also possible that you have some combination of these or a rarer cause of back pain.

While over-the-counter pain medicines, a heating pad, and rest (balanced with activity) may be helpful, it is important that you see your physician to evaluate these symptoms, especially if you are not improving over a number of weeks.

Does your low back pain move (or radiate) into one or both legs?

Yes, my back pain radiates.

No, my low back pain does not radiate.

Based on your answers, some of the more likely causes of your back pain include

  • a compression fracture (related to osteoporosis or spondylolisthesis)

  • muscle spasm or strain

  • a back injury that you may not even remember.

While over-the-counter pain medicines, a heating pad and rest may be helpful, it is important that you see your physician to evaluate these symptoms.

Based on your answers, some of the most likely causes of your back pain include

  • a compression fracture (related to osteoporosis)

  • disk disease

  • sciatica

  • muscle spasm or strain

  • spinal stenosis.

While over-the-counter pain medicines, a heating pad and rest may be helpful, it is important that you see your physician to evaluate these symptoms.

Does your low back pain move (or radiate) into one or both legs?

Yes, my back pain radiates.

No, my low back pain does not radiate.

Based on your answers, some of the most likely causes of your back pain include

  • degenerative joint disease (also called osteoarthritis

  • muscle spasm or strain

  • polymyalgia rheumatica (PMR)

Even with this long list, there are still other possibilities.

While over-the-counter pain medicines, rest (balanced with activity) and a heating pad may be helpful, it is important that you see your doctor to evaluate these symptoms.

Based on your answers, some of the most likely causes of your back pain include

  • degenerative joint disease (also called osteoarthritis)

  • sciatica

  • disk disease

  • polymyalgia rheumatica (PMR)

  • spinal stenosis.

There are many other possibilities, however.

While conservative measures, such as heat, rest, and over-the-counter pain relievers may help, it is a good idea to see your health care provider for evaluation of your back pain.

Does your low back pain move into one or both legs (radiate)?

Yes, my back pain radiates.

No, my low back pain does not radiate.

Based on your answers, some of the more likely causes of your back pain include

  • degenerative joint disease (also called osteoarthritis)

  • polymyalgia rheumatica (PMR)

  • a viral infection (as in the aches and pains of having the flu)

  • a muscle strain

  • a compression fracture related to osteoporosis.

Even with this long list, there are other possibilities as well.

While over-the-counter pain medicines, rest and heat may be helpful, it is important that you see a physician to evaluate these symptoms.

Based on your answers, some of the most likely causes of your back pain include

  • degenerative joint disease (also called osteoarthritis)

  • polymyalgia rheumatica (PMR)

  • disk disease

  • sciatica

  • spinal stenosis

  • compression fracture related to osteoporosis.

More than one of these may be present in the same person and there are other, rarer causes that could be responsible.

While over-the-counter pain medicines, a heating pad, and rest may be helpful, it is important that you see your doctor to evaluate these symptoms.

Based upon your answers, your back pain could be due to a strain or sprain related to one of your daily activities that stressed the joint, tendons and/or ligaments around the back. It should go away over time.

To decrease pain, avoid overuse and try a heating pad (especially if pain has only been present for a day or two). Over-the-counter pain medications, topical treatments (such as Icy Hot or Ben Gay), or the application of ice might be helpful.

If symptoms are getting worse or do not go away, consult your physician.

More information about your back pain may be helpful to better understand why it is hurting.

Please click to continue.

In addition to pain in your low back, do you have pain in other areas of your spine or in other joints?

Yes, I have pain in other joints, too.

No, I have no pain in my joints or other parts of my spine.

Does your low back pain move (or radiate) into one or both legs?

Yes, my low back pain radiates.

No, my low back pain does not radiate.

Based upon your answers, some of the most likely causes of your back pain include

  • muscle strain or spasm

  • degenerative joint disease (or osteoarthritis)

  • ankylosing spondylitis (or a related condition).

To decrease pain, rest the back and avoid overuse. Over-the-counter pain medications, a heating pad, and topical treatments (such as Icy Hot, Ben Gay or ice) may help.

While these measures may help, it is important that you see a physician if symptoms are getting worse or not improving over time.

Based upon your answers, some of the most likely causes of your back pain include

  • disk disease

  • sciatica

  • spinal stenosis

  • spondylolisthesis

  • muscle strain or spasm.

There are other, rarer possibilities, as well.

To decrease pain, avoid overuse and try over-the-counter pain medications, a heating pad or topical treatments (such as Icy Hot or Ben Gay).

While these measures may help, it is important that you see a physician if symptoms are getting worse or not improving over time.

Does your low back pain move (or radiate) into one or both legs?

Yes, my low back pain radiates.

No, my low back pain does not radiate.

Based on your answers, some of the most likely causes of your back pain include

  • muscle spasm or strain

  • disk disease

  • sciatica.

Less likely is a fracture, from trauma or osteoporosis; other causes are also possible.

While over-the-counter pain medicines, a brace, rest and ice may be helpful, it is important that you see your doctor to evaluate these symptoms.

Based on your answers, some of the most likely causes of your back pain include

  • disk disease

  • sciatica

  • muscle spasm or strain

  • other minor injury.

More than one cause may present at the same time and other, rare causes, such as fracture, are also possible.

While over-the-counter pain medicines, a heating pad, and rest (balanced with activity) may be helpful, it is important that you see a physician to evaluate these symptoms.

Does your low back pain move (or radiate) into one or both legs?

Yes, my low back pain radiates.

No, my low back pain does not radiate.

Based on your answers, some of the more likely causes of your back pain include:

  • fibromyalgia

  • ankylosing spondylitis (or related conditions, called spondyloarthropathies)

  • a viral infection (as may occur with the muscle and joint pain during a flu).

Other, rarer, causes are also possible.

While over-the-counter pain medicines, a heating pad, and rest balanced with activity may be helpful, it is important that you see a physician to evaluate these symptoms.

Based on your answers, some of the more likely causes of your back pain include

  • fibromyalgia

  • disk disease

  • sciatica

  • spinal stenosis

  • ankylosing spondylitis (or related conditions, called spondyloarthropathies)

  • muscle spasm or strain.

More than one of these may be present at the same time and other, rarer, causes are also possible.

While over-the-counter pain medicines, a heating pad, and rest balanced with activity may be helpful, it is important that you see a physician to evaluate these symptoms.

Does your low back pain move (or radiate) into one or both legs?

Yes, my low back pain radiates.

No, my low back pain does not radiate.

Based on your answers, some of the more likely causes of your back pain include

  • fibromyalgia

  • ankylosing spondylitis (or related conditions, called spondyloarthropathies)

  • a viral infection (as may occur with the muscle and joint pain during a flu).

Other, rarer, causes sciatica are also possible.

While over-the-counter pain medicines, a heating pad, and rest balanced with activity may be helpful, it is important that you see a physician to evaluate these symptoms.

Based on your answers, some of the more likely causes of your back pain include

  • disk disease

  • sciatica

  • fibromyalgia

  • ankylosing spondylitis (or related conditions, called spondyloarthropathies)

  • spinal stenosis.

Other, rarer, causes are also possible.

While over-the-counter pain medicines, a heating pad, and rest balanced with activity may be helpful, it is important that you see a physician to evaluate these symptoms.

In addition to pain in your low back, do you have pain in other parts of your back or other joints?

Yes, I have pain in other joints, too.

No, I have no pain in my joints or other parts of my spine.

Does your low back pain move (or radiate) into one or both legs?

Yes, my low back pain radiates.

No, my low back pain does not radiate.

Based on your answers, some of the most likely causes of your back pain include

  • degenerative joint disease (also called osteoarthritis)

  • muscle spasm or strain

  • fracture (related to osteoarthritis or spondylolisthesis).

Other, rarer causes are also possible.

While over-the-counter pain medicines, a heating pad, and rest may be helpful, it is important that you see a physician to evaluate these symptoms, especially if your back pain is not clearly improving over a number of weeks.

Based on your answers, some of the most likely causes of your back pain include

  • degenerative joint disease (also called osteoarthritis)

  • disk disease

  • sciatica

  • spinal stenosis

  • muscle strain or spasm.

Less likely is a fracture (as may occur with osteoporosis or slippage of one vertebra on the one above or below it). It's also possible that you have some combination of these or a rarer cause of back pain.

While over-the-counter pain medicines, a heating pad, and rest (balanced with activity) may be helpful, it is important that you see your physician to evaluate these symptoms, especially if you are not improving over a number of weeks.

Does your low back pain move (or radiate) into one or both legs?

Yes, my low back pain radiates.

No, my low back pain does not radiate.

Based on your answers, some of the more likely causes of your back pain include

  • a compression fracture (related to osteoporosis or spondylolisthesis)

  • muscle spasm or strain

  • a back injury that you may not even remember.

While over-the-counter pain medicines, a heating pad and rest may be helpful, it is important that you see your physician to evaluate these symptoms.

Based on your answers, some of the most likely causes of your back pain include

  • a compression fracture (related to osteoporosis)

  • disk disease

  • sciatica

  • muscle spasm or strain

  • spinal stenosis.

While over-the-counter pain medicines, a heating pad and rest may be helpful, it is important that you see your physician to evaluate these symptoms.

Does your low back pain move (or radiate) into one or both legs?

Yes, my low back pain radiates.

No, my low back pain does not radiate.

Based on your answers, some of the most likely causes of your back pain include

  • degenerative joint disease (also called osteoarthritis)

  • muscle spasm or strain

  • polymyalgia rheumatica (PMR)

  • fibromyalgia.

Even with this long list, there are still other possibilities.

While over-the-counter pain medicines, rest (balanced with activity) and a heating pad may be helpful, it is important that you see your doctor to evaluate these symptoms.

Based on your answers, some of the most likely causes of your back pain include

  • degenerative joint disease (also called osteoarthritis)

  • sciatica

  • disk disease

  • polymyalgia rheumatica (PMR)

  • spinal stenosis.

There are many other possibilities, however.

While conservative measures, such as heat, rest, and over-the-counter pain relievers may help, it is a good idea to see your health care provider for evaluation of your back pain.

Does your low back pain radiate (move into one or both legs)?

Yes, my back pain radiates.

No, my back pain does not radiate.

Based on your answers, some of the more likely causes of your back pain include

  • degenerative joint disease (also called osteoarthritis)

  • polymyalgia rheumatica (PMR)

  • a viral infection (as in the aches and pains of having the flu)

  • a muscle strain

  • a compression fracture (related to osteoporosis).

Even with this long list, there are other possibilities as well.

While over-the-counter pain medicines, rest and heat may be helpful, it is important that you see a physician to evaluate these symptoms.

Based on your answers, some of the most likely causes of your back pain include

  • degenerative joint disease (also called osteoarthritis)

  • polymyalgia rheumatica (PMR)

  • disk disease

  • sciatica

  • spinal stenosis

  • compression fracture related to osteoporosis.

More than one of these may be present in the same person and there are other, rarer causes that could be responsible.

While over-the-counter pain medicines, a heating pad, and rest may be helpful, it is important that you see your doctor to evaluate these symptoms.

Have you had any change in activity that might have triggered your back pain, such as playing a new sport or recent heavy lifting?

Yes, I've changed my activities.

No, I have not changed my activities.

Since you haven't recently changed your lifestyle dramatically, your back pain is most likely due to muscle strain, sprain or other minor injury from your daily activities. The pain should go away over time.

To decrease pain, avoid overuse, rest briefly if necessary (but avoid complete bedrest for more than a day or two as this appears to provide little benefit in most cases), and avoid those activities that might have triggered your pain in the first place. Over-the-counter pain medications, topical medications (such as Icy Hot or Ben Gay), or the application of ice may be helpful.

If symptoms are getting worse or do not go away, consult your physician.

Based upon your answers, your back pain is most likely due to muscle strain, sprain or other minor injury, perhaps related to recent activities that triggered it. The pain should go away over time.

To decrease pain, avoid overuse, rest briefly if necessary (but avoid complete bedrest for more than a day or two as this appears to provide little benefit in most cases), and avoid those activities that might have triggered your pain in the first place. Over-the-counter pain medications, topical medications (such as Icy Hot or Ben Gay), or the application of ice may be helpful.

If symptoms are getting worse or do not go away, consult your physician.

With mild pain that has only recently started, exercises can be helpful to stretch and strengthen the back. If there is severe pain, avoid these, but otherwise, do those you can easily tolerate as they may hasten your recovery.

Based on your symptoms, you could have an infection, fracture or other serious cause of back pain.

Although many people with these symptoms do not turn out to have anything serious, it is usually a good idea to seek medical attention to be sure. Contact your doctor or go to a local emergency room right away for evaluation!