Reasons why Back Pain is hard to diagnose

While back pain is exceedingly common; it has become equally challenging to diagnose, as there are no established protocols to evaluate this problem. A typical 15-minute consultation with your doctor is not enough to explain, evaluate and understand what exactly is going on in your achy back. Diagnosing the origin cause of back pain needs time, physician expertise, and collaboration amid different medical specialists, such as principal care doctors, physical therapists, physiatrists, and orthopaedic physicians.

What is back pain?

Back pain is a result of any injury, activity and some medical conditions. It can affect any person of any age for different reasons. As we age, the chances to get lower back pain increase. The cause could be previous occupation and degenerative discs disease. It is a common reason for the absence of work and seeking medical treatment and creates an uncomfortably debilitating condition in your body. Lower back pain may be connected to the bony lumbar spine, discs among the vertebrae, ligaments near the spine and discs, spinal cord and tissues, lower back fibres, abdominal and pelvic internal organs, and the skin round the lumbar area. And if the pain exists in the upper back, it can be due to aorta, tumours in the chest and spine inflammation.

What Causes Back Pain?

In the human body, the back is composed of a complex structure of muscles, ligaments, tendons, disks, and bones that support the body and enable us to move around. The disk is the segment of the spine cushioned with cartilage-like pads. Problems with any of these components can give you back pain, but sometimes the reasons remain unclear. It happens that although you have made a proper diagnosis, finding out the main reason for back pain becomes difficult.

It can be caused due to Structural problems, Strain, Movement and posture, Cancer of the spine, Infection of the spine, Sleep disorder, Cauda equina syndrome or Shingles. These are a few medical conditions that can lead to back pain.

Why is it hard to diagnose?

There are four important reasons for diagnosing back pain or getting overly delayed, as mentioned below.

The specific source of pain is a challenge to identify.

Potential underlying causes of back pain are many:

  • Problems may occur in spinal nerve roots, lower back muscle, vertebral bones and joints, intervertebral discs, or organs in the abdominal cavity.
  • While in some cases, your brain receives some abnormal false signals of pain from nerves. It results in neuropathic back pain.
  • Psychosocial problems such as anxiety, stress or depression also result in back pain.

To precisely identify the reason is problematic because it occurs with several other problems. For example, a patient may have a herniated disc and spinal stenosis simultaneously, and the pain may originate from either of these conditions. But the treatment options vary for both, and providing an inaccurate treatment will not help eliminate the cause of pain.

Diagnostic tests have limited value.

There are several potential issues when it comes to diagnostic tests, but the main problem is that there is no single diagnostic test that can accurately confirm the reason for back pain. Tests with limited value and diagnostic nerve block injections may also provide false-positive or false-negative results. It doesn’t mean that your doctor or physical therapist cannot diagnose the problem. Standard conditions like lumbar herniated discs lead to sciatica symptoms( this is often diagnosed quickly and accurately through specific tests).

Pain is a personal experience that can vary from person to person.

Pain is a personal experience for each individual. What may be mild back pain to one person can feel severe and overwhelming to another. The same condition can require completely different kinds and levels of treatment for other people. Hence it varies. For example, medication and exercise can treat common back conditions for most people. But some people need extensive care and require a robust treatment plan to handle intense pain, such as an epidural steroid injection.

Lifestyle can be a cause.

We all know that whatever lifestyle we are living has more impact on our health. It can happen that even after taking a proper treatment plan, back pain tends to come back or even worsen the condition. All these can result from living a sedentary lifestyle like insufficient sleep, smoking, excessive intake of alcohol, or inflammatory foods may be the hidden cause.


If you have acute or chronic pain and do not know the underlying cause, educate yourself on your symptoms and work in partnership with your doctor to formulate suitable treatment plans. Use ergonomically supported postures for your back, get a daily dose of exercise—even if it’s for 10 minutes per day, quit smoking, and eat a nutritious, balanced diet to keep your back healthy.

About the Author

Ellie Wilson is a freelance web content writer helping solopreneurs and small businesses build their online presence through friendly, long-form, and shareable blog posts. She has expertise in writing about the healthcare industry for many years. Other than writing, she enjoys traveling to adventurous places and exploring new food.




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