Using Your History
Your health care provider usually can identify conditions that commonly cause low back pain through the features of your history. Typical characteristics of the more common, identifiable causes of low back pain are outlined in the table below.
Unfortunately, for most people with low back pain, no definitive cause is ever found. In these cases, there are rarely any "red flag" symptoms, such as fever, that could point to a serious or even life-threatening cause. The pain is nonspecific — meaning there is no strong suggestion from your symptoms that any one condition is the cause of your pain. In addition, the pain tends to improve on its own or with conservative treatment, such as rest, within a few weeks. However, low back pain of uncertain cause may also become chronic, persisting for months or years. In these cases, low back pain can be a major source of suffering and frustration.
As for whether low back pain (or other types of pain) may be psychological in origin, there is no easy way to know. But a reasonable approach is to accept all pain as genuine, even if its source is difficult to identify.
Relieving pain, regardless of its source, should be the ultimate focus. If your symptoms persist, reassessment over time and regular follow-up with your health care provider may lead to a new or more specific diagnosis or to a change to a treatment that is more effective.
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