Back Pain? How to Tell Muscle Pain from Spine Pain – Tips From the Pros

Sometimes when your back hurts, it’s difficult to tell the difference between muscular pain and pain that could be coming from your spine. Figuring out the type of back pain you have can help determine how you treat it and what might work best. Here are some suggestions if your back has become a real pain:

Back Pain Symptom Questions:

Do you have pain with movement?

Do you have pain that radiates down your leg or into your glute muscles?

Is your pain dull or sharp, aching or electric?

Do you have pain at rest?


Back Pain Symptom Checker:

As you can see, back pain that is caused by a muscular issue can be similar to pain caused by a problem related to your spine; however, there are usually certain differences with spinal pain. Pain in your spine can be due to arthritis, injury, or simple wear and tear. It can be due to your vertebrae, facet joints, discs, or some combination. Typically, pain originating in your spine will look a little different than pain from a muscle. You may have a more burning or electric-type pain, or your pain may be constant. With spinal-issue pain, you may also have pain that “shoots” down your leg or into your glute muscles. Depending on where the problem is, you may have aching in your groin that is caused by nerve compression in your back. If you develop weakness in your legs or feet, that’s a warning sign to seek medical attention.

A muscle issue tends to be more localized, and often you’re aware of when, where, or how it starts. Maybe you overdid it on yard work, or your back began to hurt after a pick-up ball game with friends. Sometimes back pain can sneak up on you, but you still may have a tight feeling in your back muscles, or it may only bother you in certain positions. Depending on the level of severity, you may have pain at rest. As always, pain at rest with any condition is a sign to make an appointment with a medical professional.

For back pain you can try rest, heat, and ice. (If you have an injury or general sore back after overuse, icing within the first couple days is your best bet.) If you’re still experiencing symptoms or your back isn’t much better after a few days, make an appointment with a physical therapist to determine what kind of back pain you’re dealing with and your treatment options. A physical therapist will assess your symptoms and be able to determine the likely source of your pain, as well as develop a treatment plan that will involve stretching and strengthening and a custom home exercise plan.

If back pain is your problem, Body One Physical Therapy is your answer. We’re locally owned and operated, with three locations serving Central Indiana: North Indianapolis, Fishers, and Zionsville. Our team of caring, expert physical therapists works with clients of all ages and activity levels and we’d love to help get you back to feeling your best. Hurt and looking for answers? We offer free Injury Screenings at each of our locations. Call Body One and find out how we can help you.