When asked about common types of chronic pain, respondents of a National Institute of Health Statistics survey indicated that back pain was the most common (27%), followed by neck pain (15%).
Back pain is the leading cause of disability in Americans under 45 years old. More than 26 million Americans between the ages of 20-64 experience frequent back pain.
Some common causes of back and neck pain include:
- sprain and strain of the back or neck;
- pain arising from the discs of the spine themselves, called “discogenic pain”;
- pain that results when bulging discs compress nerves, called “radicular pain”;
- pain from arthritis (any type) of the facet joints – the joints that hold the spine in alignment (“facet joint syndrome”); and
- pain from bony compression of the nerves of the spine, which is called spinal stenosis.
Acute or short-term neck pain or back pain generally lasts from a few days to a few weeks. Most acute back pain is mechanical, the result of physical stress or strain. Symptoms may primarily resemble muscle ache, or may be characterized as shooting or stabbing pain. Limited flexibility and range of motion is common.
Chronic back pain or neck pain is defined by its duration. Back or neck pain that persists for more than 3 months is considered chronic. It is frequently progressive and the cause is often difficult to determine.