When back pain doesn’t go away on its own, it can be a sign of reinjury or an underlying condition, like a herniated disk. But seemingly minor things, like your posture, can also play a role.
There are many reasons why your back pain might not go away as quickly as you’d like. It could be that you’ve reinjured your back without realizing it or that the pain has caused you to stiffen up too much. It’s also possible that your back pain has a more serious underlying cause, like a herniated disk.
While back pain often resolves on its own with time, that’s not always the case. Back pain is considered chronic when it last for 12 weeks or more.
If you have chronic back pain, you should talk with a doctor. You may have a condition that needs to be diagnosed and treated.
Let’s take a look at the various causes of persistent back pain and how to determine whether your back pain is a sign of something more serious than a pulled muscle.
There are many reasons to explain why your back pain isn’t going away, and they fall into three broad categories:
Movement and posture
Back pain can be affected by many things, including moving too much or too little. Your posture also plays a role.
Movement is generally a good thing. Unless you have a serious injury or were instructed otherwise by a healthcare professional, you should regularly stretch the muscles in your back. You should also strengthen your back muscles through exercise.
But too much movement, especially heavy lifting, repetitive motion, or sharp movements, can further strain your back and slow the healing process.
Poor posture can also cause prolonged back pain. If you work at a computer or sit for a significant part of your day, even an optimal setup can hurt your back. Be sure to get up and move around frequently. There are also exercises that can help.
Sometimes a back injury results from trauma, such as pulling a muscle while lifting something or taking a hard fall. But back injuries can also occur gradually over time. For example, vertebral compression fractures can occur when you take a fall, but they can also happen from the degeneration of your spinal disks over time.
If your back pain isn’t going away, your back may have suffered more significant damage than you thought.
A herniated disk — also called a slipped disk — is a relatively common cause of back pain that happens when one of the cushiony disks between your spinal bones presses up against a nerve root in your back. In the lower back, this is typically referred to as sciatica. The sciatic nerve runs from your lower back down into your legs.
Spinal stenosis is another condition affecting the nerve roots in your spine.
If you don’t believe your back is hurting from an injury, some form of disease may be responsible for your back pain.
Osteoporosis is a condition in which the bones lose density over time. Weakness in your spinal bones can lead to compression fractures, in which a bone cracks under the weight of your spine. Osteoporosis increases your risk of these fractures.
Osteoarthritis is another common condition responsible for joint pain. This can occur anywhere in your back but is more common around your neck or lower back. Facet joint arthropathy is another type of arthritis that affects the joints in your spine.
Degenerative disk disease (DDD) affects the disks between the vertebrae in your spine, and back pain is one of its symptoms.
Back pain can generally be divided into two categories: acute and chronic.
If you have acute back pain, you usually notice the symptoms suddenly. This type of back pain will last for as little as a day or two or as long as several weeks.
Chronic back pain can start suddenly, or it might start slowly. The pain might be constant and steady, or it might gradually increase in intensity. Back pain that you feel every day for 12 weeks or longer is considered chronic.
Any chronic back pain should be taken seriously, especially if you aren’t sure of the cause of your pain.
In addition to pain, you may have additional symptoms that could indicate a more serious underlying condition. These include:
- tingling or shooting pains
- urinary incontinence
- leg weakness
- difficulty urinating
- loss of bowel control
- unexplained weight loss
If you experience any of these symptoms, you should seek medical attention as soon as possible.
There are several home remedies for back pain. Here are some things you can do to help relieve the pain and help your back heal:
There are several ways to treat chronic back pain that doesn’t go away on its own. These options vary considerably. Some options, like massage therapy, are quick, easy, and noninvasive. Others, like back injections, have higher risks of side effects but require less healing time than more invasive surgical options.
If your back pain keeps getting worse, isn’t going away, or keeps coming back, you should talk with a doctor about your best next steps. Generally, doctors will advise starting with the lowest-risk options.
Treatments for chronic back pain can include:
Back pain can persist for a long time. It’s classified as chronic back pain if it lasts for 12 weeks or longer. If you’re unsure if your back pain is serious, consult a doctor. You may have an underlying condition.