Stephen J. Schueler, M.D.


Back Tenderness Overview

What is back tenderness?
A person with back tenderness has pain when pressure is applied to the skin and muscles over the back. Back tenderness is commonly caused by a back strain, irritation, or inflammation of the bones, muscles, ligaments, tendons, disks or spinal cord. Acute lumbar strain is probably the most common cause of back tenderness, back stiffness, and back pain.

What are the symptoms of back tenderness?
Symptoms of back tenderness depend on the underlying cause. Symptoms that are often associated with back tenderness include back pain, back stiffness (restricted motion to the back and spine), and tenderness overlying the muscles on either side of the spine. Symptoms of a more serious underlying cause for back tenderness 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 tenderness?
Treatment depends on the underlying cause for the back tenderness. Minor musculoskeletal back tenderness 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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