Three Medical Conditions That Cause Severe Back Pain

According to statistics, about 80% of Americans have experienced low back pain at one time in their life. Back pain can be debilitating, and for some the pain is so bad they are unable to work. Besides being the most common reason for missing work, back pain is also a common cause of workplace disability. If you suffer with back pain, you shouldn't just hope it will go away on its own. Oftentimes, severe pain in the back is a symptom of a treatable medical condition.

Here are three medical conditions that cause serious back pain.

1. Sacroiliac Joint Dysfunction

Some people with back pain might actually have spinal pain, which is caused by a condition called sacroiliac joint dysfunction. Sometimes when the back sustains an injury, the joints in the lower back become inflamed, causing severe pain, especially when standing. This condition can also be caused by arthritis in the back. 

Besides back pain, other common symptoms of sacroiliac joint dysfunction include:

  • Numbness and tingling of the lower extremities
  • Pain in the pelvic area and/or buttocks
  • Feeling of leg instability

Spinal pain treatment often involves chiropractic adjustments, wearing a pelvic brace, and receiving sacroiliac joint injections.

2. Herniated Disk

The spine is made up of individual bones called vertebrae. In between the vertebrae are disks, which look and feel like rubbery cushions. These disks are soft inside and hard on the outside, and when the soft part pushes through the exterior, it's called a slipped or herniated disk. When a disk becomes herniated, it irritates the surrounding nerves, causing immense back pain.

Besides pain, other symptoms of a herniated disk include:

  • Numbness or tingling in the legs
  • A feeling of weakness in the muscles
  • Overactive reflexes

Treatment for herniated disks include taking over-the-counter pain medication or muscle relaxants, physical therapy, and in some cases surgery may be necessary.


Also known as degenerative joint disease, osteoarthritis occurs when the cartilage wears down over time and is no longer able to prevent the bones from rubbing against one another. While most people experience osteoarthritis in their hands, knees, and hips, they can also have it in their spine, which results in severe back pain. Other symptoms of osteoarthritis include:

  • Bony growths around the joints
  • Joints appear larger than usual
  • Limited range of motion in the affected joints

Some of the most common spinal pain treatment options for osteoarthritis include medications, such as topical ointments and cortisone injections. Physical therapy can also help to reduce pain, and if pain continues, surgery may be necessary.