About Back and Leg Pain

When you feel pain, it is really a reaction to signals transmitted throughout your body. These signals are sent from the pain source, such as a sore back, through the nerves in the spinal cord and up to the brain, where they are perceived as pain. It is important to differentiate between acute back pain and chronic back pain.


Acute Back Pain

Acute back pain is commonly described as a very sharp pain or dull ache, usually felt deep in the lower part of the back, and can be more severe in one area, such as the right side, left side, centre, or the lower part of the back. Acute pain can be intermittent, but is usually constant, only ranging in severity.

Sometimes, acute back pain can be caused by injury or trauma to the back, but just as often has no known cause. If you have acute back pain, even when it's severe, it will typically recover within 6 to 8 weeks.

Approximately half of all back pain patients have acute pain caused by trauma. A contusion or torn muscle resulting from a back injury can cause pain. Patients with any of these conditions typically exhibit pain and decreased functional activities. Treatment is short-term and usually successful.

Chronic Back Pain

Chronic back pain is commonly described as deep, aching, dull or burning pain in one area of the back and legs (also known as radicular pain). You may experience numbness, tingling, burning, or a pins-and-needles type of sensation in the legs. Regular daily activities may become difficult or impossible. You may even find it hard or unbearable to work.

Chronic back pain tends to last a long time. It may result from a previous injury long since healed, or it may have an ongoing cause, such as nerve damage or arthritis.

If you have chronic back pain, talk to your doctor about appropriate treatment options.


Chronic back and leg pain can result from a number of spinal conditions, including:


Symptoms of chronic back and leg pain can range from mildly uncomfortable to completely disabling. You may feel a sharp or knife-like pain, a burning sensation, or a dull muscular ache. Affected areas may feel tender or sore to the touch and the pain may increase with movement.


You may have chronic pain if your pain has lasted more than 6 months. Talk to your doctor for more information.

Information on this site should not be used as a substitute for talking with your doctor. Always talk with your doctor about diagnosis and treatment information.

Last updated: 27 Sep 2010

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