Your Back Pain Could Be a Symptom of 1 of These 5 Health Issues

There is nothing worse than waking up with an aching back. When there’s no time to stretch before work and a chiropractor is out of the question, what gives? Whether it’s your upper, middle, or lower back, you may think a pulled muscle’s the problem, but there’s a good chance that’s not it. Here are five causes of back pain you’ll want to consider if you’ve already ruled out strains, sprains, and years of natural wear and tear.

1. Pneumonia

Woman sitting at her desk with back pain

Surprisingly, pneumonia may be the cause of your back pain. | Thinkstock

If you feel like you’re coming down with an illness and you’re experiencing serious back pain, then the two may be more related than you think. Health explains pneumonia, an infection that sits in your lungs, may be the reason for your back pain if you’re also experiencing persistent coughing, fever, and shortness of breath. Pneumonia pain will often present itself in the center of your back, right behind your lungs. And taking deep breaths is likely to trigger even more discomfort.

If you think you have pneumonia, you should seek medical treatment — a doctor will most likely give you anti-viral medication or antibiotics to fight the infection.

2. Acid reflux

Man has heartburn while eating his meal

You’ll feel acid reflux in your back. | iStock.com

If you frequently experience a burning sensation or a tightness in your chest and upper back, particularly after you’ve consumed caffeine or fatty foods, then your back pain may be from acid reflux. Merck Manuals explains gastroesophageal reflux disease, or GERD, is caused from stomach acid coming back up through the esophagus. This can cause a burning pain in the chest and back along with a squeezing sensation that can resemble heart disease.

Alcohol, cigarettes, and poor posture can all contribute to acid reflux, as can eating foods that are spicy, fried, or extremely acidic. Making a few changes in your lifestyle, as recommended by eMedicineHealth, can really help you.

3. Kidney stones

kidney cross section

Kidney stones can cause a lot of back pain. | iStock.com/Hywards

From very severe pain to no symptoms at all, kidney stones are a common urinary tract disorder. They occur when small, hard deposits from the urine form in the kidneys. Usually these stones pass, but when they’re lodged, they can cause severe pain on one side of the lower back or in your abs, Healthline explains. You may experience anything from a dull throb or waves of pain as the stone moves. And pay attention to when your symptoms occur — kidney stone pain is typically noticed early in the morning or late at night.

4. Osteoarthritis

Man holds his lower back due to back pain

Osteoarthritis can definitely give you issues. | iStock.com

If you’re middle-aged and experiencing consistent back pain, then you’ll want to know that spinal arthritis is one of the leading causes. Lower backache that is accompanied by a stiffness in the neck may be a sign of osteoarthritis, a degenerative joint disease that occurs when the cartilage that protects the tops of bones begins to wear away over time. Spine-Health explains this disease strictly affects the joints, and it typically occurs in those over the age of 50. 

The most common symptom is stiffness, but you may also experience swelling and warmth in the joints. If you apply pressure to your spine, the area may feel tender, too.

5. Pancreatic cancer

Illustration of male pancreas anatomy

Pancreatic cancer is a very serious diagnosis. | iStock.com/sankalpmaya

Though there are no symptoms in the early stages of pancreatic cancer, pain in the abdomen and back is a very common symptom of this cancer once the disease begins to spread. The American Cancer Society says pancreatic cancer can be quite painful in the back area if allowed to spread to the nerves around the pancreas. Typically, this pain will initially start in your abdomen, then radiate out as the cancer progresses. If a backache is the only symptom you have, then don’t worry too much — you’ll want to look for other possible causes.

Other symptoms of pancreatic cancer include jaundice, dark urine, itchiness of the skin, nausea, and weight loss.

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