What are Common Causes of Joint and Back Pain?

Jami Yontz
Jami Yontz
An illustration of a healthy spine and one with spinal osteoarthritis, one cause of back pain.
An illustration of a healthy spine and one with spinal osteoarthritis, one cause of back pain.

Joint and back pain can be a debilitating condition and is one of the most common reasons for a visit to a physician. However, finding the cause of the pain can be very difficult because of the wide variety of underlying causes. Common causes of joint and back pain include a herniated disc, arthritis and spinal stenos. Sacroiliac joint dysfunction, nerve irritation, bursitis, damage to the spine or discs and degeneration of the discs can also cause pain. People experiencing pain should consult their physicians about diagnosing the cause of the pain and creating a treatment plan.

An ice pack, which can help with joint and back pain.
An ice pack, which can help with joint and back pain.

A herniated or ruptured disc occurs when the cushioning between vertebrae breaks or bulges from its normal position, which causes the nerves to become pinched or irritated. This usually causes pain, numbness or tingling in a person’s legs or arms, and can lead to electric shock pain. Nerve irritation is a common cause of joint and back pain and is a contributing factor in many of the conditions that lead to back pain.

Back pain can have several causes.
Back pain can have several causes.

Arthritis and osteoarthritis causes the cartilage between joints to become inflamed and break down. The cartilage provides cushion between the bones within the spinal cord, and the loss of this spongy material causes pain and stiffness. Lumbar spinal stenosis is usually a result of osteoarthritis because the degeneration causes the expansion of the facet joints, which then compresses the nerves in the lower back.

Physical therapy may help relieve joint pain.
Physical therapy may help relieve joint pain.

The sacroiliac joints are located between the sacrum and the hipbone on either side of the body and connect the pelvis to the spine. These joints, because of injury or inflammation, wear down unevenly and eventually become too stiff or too loose. Sacroiliac joint dysfunction can cause extreme pain and stiffness and can lead to arthritis.

Degeneration of the discs and disc damage can also cause joint and back pain. During the aging process, the intervertebral discs simply wear down. The degeneration of the discs can also lead to other conditions in which the spinal structure becomes unstable, and this can causes discs to slip from their normal position. Strain or damage from an injury to the spinal cord can cause misaligned bones, arthritis and stiff joints.

A herniated disc is a common source of back pain.
A herniated disc is a common source of back pain.

Bursitis, a condition that causes the bursa or fluid-filled sacs that provide cushion between the bones and joints to become inflamed, is another cause of joint and back pain. These fluid-filled sacs prevent friction between the bones, muscles and tendons; when they become inflamed they can cause pain, soreness and stiffness in the affected joints.

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    • An illustration of a healthy spine and one with spinal osteoarthritis, one cause of back pain.
      An illustration of a healthy spine and one with spinal osteoarthritis, one cause of back pain.
    • An ice pack, which can help with joint and back pain.
      An ice pack, which can help with joint and back pain.
    • Back pain can have several causes.
      Back pain can have several causes.
    • Physical therapy may help relieve joint pain.
      Physical therapy may help relieve joint pain.
    • A herniated disc is a common source of back pain.
      A herniated disc is a common source of back pain.