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Most people in the United States will experience back pain in their lives. Back pain is the second most common reason that patients go to the doctor and a very common reason that people miss work. Back pain can originate from the many parts of the back: the muscles, bones, disks, ligaments, tendons, and even the organs that lie toward the back of the abdomen. The most common cause of back pain is strain of the muscles or ligaments involved in movement. Muscle strain is most commonly arises from improper use of the back with heavy lifting or unusual straining. Strain may present with both pain and muscle spasm. Another cause of back pain is the disks in the back which sit between the vertebrae (the bones that make up the spinal column). These disks are designed to cushion the movement of the spinal column. If these disks bulge in the wrong direction or rupture, they can press on a nerve which causes pain. Sometimes people with a bulging or slipped disks will have no symptoms at all. However, if the disk pushes on a nerve such as the sciatic nerve which runs down your leg, you could have a shooting electric pain down the leg or sciatica. Another source of back pain is spinal stenosis, which is caused by joint inflammation (arthritis) happening between the vertebrae in the spine. Other causes of back pain include abnormal curvatures of the spine (scoliosis, kyphosis or lordosis). Another cause of pain is compression fracture of the spine caused by weakening of the bone that occurs with age or osteoporosis. More serious conditions causing back pain are generally those that can cause impingement of the spinal cord like cauda equina syndrome, cancer in the spine, or infection in the spine. Risk factors that increase low back pain include being overweight or obese, being older, smoking, being a woman, doing physically demanding jobs, having a stressful or sedentary job, and having anxiety or depression. Back pain is extremely common, but some symptoms can indicate a more serious problem including pain that is constant or severe, pain that is worse when lying down, pain causing weakness in the legs, loss of bowel or bladder control with back pain, back pain with fever, back pain causing a throbbing sensation in the abdomen, pain spreading down both legs, an back pain associated with weight loss. It is as important to treat ongoing back pain as it is to prevent the causes of back pain which can lead to healthier, more active lives. Most of the time, exercises and medications along with proper lifting techniques can heal back pain. In some cases, surgery is necessary to cure back pain.