Axial back pain is the most common type of low back pain. It is usually non-specific – meaning that the anatomical structure responsible for the pain need not be identified because symptoms are usually self limited and resolve. Unlike other low back issues, this type of pain does not travel into the buttock, legs and feet, or other areas of the body. Axial back pain can vary widely from sharp or dull pain, constant or intermittent pain, or mild to severe pain.
Following are characteristics of axial back pain:
- Low back pain that gets worse with certain activities, such as certain sports.
- Low back pain that gets worse with certain positions, such as sitting for long periods.
- Low back pain that is relieved by rest.
An exact diagnosis as to which structure is causing the low back pain rarely has significance to treatment. Further evaluation is only necessary when the pain is severe and chronic. A variety of structures in the lower back can cause axial or mechanical lower back pain, such as a degenerated disc, facet joints problems, and damage to soft tissues – muscles, ligaments, and tendons – and it is often difficult to identify which anatomical structure(s) is the underlying cause of the pain.
As a general rule of thumb, if your back pain is bad enough that it wakes you up from deep sleep, you should consult a physician to rule out possible serious conditions, such as an infection, tumor or fracture.
Treatment for axial back pain is conservative (not requiring surgery). Treatment may include one or a combination of the following:
- A short period of rest (e.g. one or two days)
- Physical therapy and active exercise and stretching
- Ice and/or heat application for activity related pain relief
- Appropriate medications for pain relief
- About 90 percent of patients with axial low back pain recover within six weeks. If axial
- low back pain persists for more than six to eight weeks, then additional testing and/or injections may be useful in diagnosing and treating the source of the pain.