Different Types of Back Pain

Pain—an unavoidable part of life. With its wide range of causes, it can govern how you operate on a daily basis. Every moment can be a struggle to manage the constant pulse of agony keeping you from enjoying life to the fullest. The back is perhaps one of the most common areas to experience pain. In fact, over 31 million American suffer from lower back pain. So, if you do experience back pain, understand that you’re not alone and there are experts who are dedicated to helping you manage your pain in a responsible manner. However, when first experiencing these issues, it can be difficult to understand the different types of back pain. Keep in mind that all back pain is not created equal. In fact, understanding their varying degrees of intensity can help you and your doctor find the best treatment options. To help you stay informed and possibly kick your pain to the curb, here are the different types of pain commonly experienced.

How to Describe Your Pain

When managing your back pain symptoms, you may find it difficult to diagnose what type of pain you have. The spinal cord is a complex hub of your nervous system, which contains seemingly endless nerve roots, and when it degenerates or becomes injured, it can cause a wide range of painful symptoms. So, how do we describe them? The area you experience pain and its distribution are vital when pinning down a diagnosis. Thankfully, there are three main ways to identify your pain.


Radicular pain is characterized by constant and intense sensations that affect the nerve paths to the arms and legs. Often accompanied by feelings a fatigue or numbing, radicular pain is commonly caused by injury, inflammation, or compressions of the nerve roots in the spinal cord. Other causes include herniated discs, spondylolisthesis, and spinal stenosis, all of which have specific treatment or surgical options.


Typically described as dull or achy sensations, referred pain often pulses around various parts of the body. Its intensity also varies from place to place. As a reference, degenerative disc disease can cause referred pain in areas near the lower back, like the posterior thighs and the hips. Unlike other pain categories, referred pain is somewhat constant.


Axial pain is described in a number of ways. Sometimes dull or intense, it comes quick and leaves just as fast, but has been also known to remain constant at times. If you’ve ever pulled a muscle or experienced muscle strain, then you have most likely felt some form of axial pain.

The Types of Pain

In order to understand the different types of back pain, you’ll need to be familiar with their basic categories. As mentioned before, not all pain is alike, and by accurately identifying it, you can find the proper treatment with the help of a pain management specialist.


Acute Pain usually follows the immediate damage of tissue. It typically doesn’t last long, usually 3 to 6 months, but it can certainly pack a punch. Like most pain, it’s characterized by varying degrees of intensity. If you’ve ever burned yourself on a hot iron, slammed a door on your hand, or experienced a needle prick, you’ve felt acute pain. It can cause a great deal of agony, but it’s not permanent. If the pain continues after half a year, it’s usually due to some other factor influencing your health and you should seek out a physician immediately.

Chronic Pain

Chronic pain is caused by a number of variables, but its persistence is what sets it apart from acute pain. In fact, it continues to hurt long after the tissue has healed and 6 months has passed. Whether it’s caused by past injuries, surgeries, or has no identifiable cause like fibromyalgia, it can greatly impact an individual’s day-to-day life. In general, chronic pain is the least understood type of pain and it’s intensity varies from person to person. If the cause is diagnosed, it can certainly be managed with specific treatments and procedures, but chronic pain is by and large a complex issue due to a number of factors throughout the body.

Neuropathic Pain

Neuropathic pain is a distinct type of chronic pain that has specific symptoms. Even though tissue has healed long after an injury, nerves in the body continue to send messages to the brain notifying it that tissue is still damaged. Individuals that suffer from neuropathic pain often feel weak, numb, cold, and an unmistakable sharp pain in one or more areas. This type of pain has also been known to spread throughout the arms and legs. The earlier it’s diagnosed, the better. If neuropathic pain continues untreated for long periods of time, it will be more difficult to reverse the nerve damage.

If you’d like to learn more about the different types of back pain, look no further than your local Houston pain specialists, US Pain and Spine Institute. Through proven clinical processes, we will guide you through your treatment and surgical options to help you live a life with little to no pain. Visit us online or contact us today to learn more about our personalized approach to pain management.