Stephen J. Schueler, M.D.


Back Stiffness Overview

What is back stiffness?
A person with back stiffness usually has discomfort when bending over, or any other movement that involves flexing and relaxing the back muscles. Back stiffness is commonly caused by a back injury, irritation, or inflammation of the bones, muscles, ligaments, tendons, disks or spinal cord. Acute lumbar strain is probably the most common cause of back stiffness and back pain.

What are the symptoms of back stiffness?
Symptoms of back stiffness depend on the underlying cause. Symptoms that are often associated with back stiffness include back pain, reduced flexibility in the back and spine, and tenderness overlying the muscles on either side of the spine. Symptoms of a more serious cause for back stiffness include severe back pain that shoots down the leg, leg numbness, leg weakness, groin numbness, and difficulty urinating. Other symptoms consistent with a serious condition include fainting, excessive sweating, high fever, abdominal pain, and chest pain.

How does the doctor treat back stiffness?
Treatment depends on the underlying cause for the back stiffness. Minor musculoskeletal back stiffness can be treated with rest, cold compresses, and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications for pain control. Other treatments may include physical therapy, narcotic pain medications, and ultrasound therapy.

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