Causes of Back Pain in Men

Back pain affects people of all ages and genders. Although back pain is more common in women than in men, it also affects a significant portion of the male population. Given that back pain can lead to diminished mobility and a decreased quality of life, it should be given prompt medical attention. 

In men, back pain can be triggered by a broad range of factors, from a severe infection to a mild injury. Understanding the different causes of back pain in men can help you identify the warning signs of a serious condition and seek out the medical care that you need. 

This article will explore the possible causes of back pain in men, as well as the treatments available today. 

What Causes Back Pain in Men?

There are several different causes of back pain in men. The most common of these conditions include:

  • Spinal disorders

Spinal disorders can lead to inflammation, nerve impingement, and, ultimately, back pain. Some of the most prevalent spinal disorders that affect men include:

  • Spinal stenosis, a condition involving the narrowing of the spinal cord
  • Bulging or herniated disc, which occurs when an intervertebral disc becomes damaged
  • Spondylolisthesis, a condition involving a displaced vertebra due to spinal instability
  • Spinal fractures, which typically result from a sudden impact, like a car accident
  • Scoliosis, which refers to an atypical spinal curvature
  • Degenerative disc disease, a condition referring to back pain caused by age-related wear and tear on an intervertebral disc
  • Spinal tumor, which can press on nerves within the spine and cause back pain

Additionally, spinal injuries that occurred in childhood can manifest in later years, providing a painful reminder of long-ago trauma. 

Back strains and sprains are extremely common causes of lower back pain across all demographics. A back strain occurs when some of the muscles and/or tendons of the spine become damaged. The tissue may be pulled, torn, or twisted, typically due to overextending the spine.

Though it’s commonly confused with a strain, a back sprain affects the ligaments of the spine, not the muscles or tendons. With this injury, the ligaments are strained or torn due to excess strain on the back. 

  • Underlying medical conditions

A wide range of medical conditions can trigger back pain in men. The most prevalent of these conditions are arthritis, sleep disorders, shingles, kidney stones, and kidney infections. 

  • Arthritis refers to joint inflammation. Many different types of arthritis can affect the facet joints of the spine, such as osteoarthritis. Typically, arthritis of the spine causes chronic back pain.
  • Sleep disorders can contribute to back pain by compromising the body’s natural repair processes. When you sleep, your body releases growth hormone, which heals damaged tissue and prevents pain. Men with disordered sleep don’t receive enough growth hormone, which can exacerbate back pain. 
  • Shingles is a viral infection caused by the varicella-zoster virus. It causes a painful, blistering rash. In some patients, shingles also leads to burning, aching, and/or stabbing back pain. 
  • Kidney problems, including kidney stones and kidney infections, can cause intense back pain
  • Poor posture

Over an extended period, poor posture can lead to back pain in men. This is because poor posture forces the spine out of its proper alignment. This places added stress on the structures of the spine and speeds up the process of spinal wear and tear. 

  • Obesity

Being overweight or obese is a key risk factor for back pain in men. With every step, excess weight places added impact on the structures of the spine. Over time, this extra stress with day-to-day motions can lead to back pain. 

  • Physical activity and lifestyle habits

Men are especially prone to traumatic back pain due to their participation in high-impact physical activities and other lifestyle habits. These activities and habits include heavy lifting, prolonged sitting, and inconsistent exercise (i.e., the weekend warrior). These activities carry a significant risk of injury to the structures of the spine, as well as the ligaments, muscles, and tendons that support the spine.

Accidents and sports injuries can lead to sudden back injuries. But, even simple day-to-day actions, such as improperly lifting a heavy object or twisting the back awkwardly when reaching for an object can trigger traumatic back injuries.

The physical stresses and strains on the spine to which men are subjected can also accelerate and exacerbate the onset of spinal conditions, such as degenerative disc disease.

Which Infection Causes Back Pain in Men?

Kidney and bladder infections can cause back pain in men. With a kidney infection, men typically experience pain in the sides of the back. If a bladder infection spreads to the kidneys, it can cause mid-back pain. 

Back pain caused by an infection won’t improve with changes in body positioning. This is unlike most other forms of back pain, which can be alleviated by moving or changing position.  

Lower Back Pain Causes Male

Lower back pain causes in males include:

  • Lower back strain: Lower back pain can stem from a muscle strain in the lower back. This commonly results from men overstretching or overusing the lower back muscles. For example, lifting a heavy object, weightlifting with poor posture, or repeatedly straining the lower back muscles in sports (i.e. golf) can cause a lower back strain. 
  • Arthritis of the lumbar spine: If arthritis affects the lumbar spine, it may trigger lower back pain. The most common type of arthritis to cause lower back pain in men is osteoarthritis, which results from gradual wear and tear on the spine. 
  • Kidney problems: As mentioned above, kidney stones can trigger severe pain in the lower back, along with painful urination and other symptoms. Kidney infections can also cause lower back pain in men; this type of infection often also causes pain in the side of the body and around the genitals. 
  • Lumbar spinal stenosis: Lumbar spinal stenosis often results from degenerative changes in the lumbar spine, which occur in almost everyone over age 60. Spinal stenosis is equally as common in both genders, making it a prevalent cause of lower back pain in men. 
  • Lumbar disc damage: The lumbar spinal discs are more susceptible to damage than other areas of the spine. The lumbar spine bears more impact and is more flexible than the rest of the spine. So, lower back pain in men is often a symptom of a bulging or herniated disc.   
  • Lumbar spondylolisthesis: Lumbar spondylolisthesis is another condition resulting from age-related spinal degeneration. It can trigger chronic lower back pain in men, particularly those aged 50 and older. 

Lower back pain is the leading cause of disability globally and accounts for most back pain cases. Therefore, many cases of back pain in men stem from a problem in the lower back. 

How Can I Tell If My Back Pain is Kidney-Related?

To tell if your back pain is kidney-related, consider the following factors:

  • Location

Kidney pain is generally felt higher on the back and “deeper” within the body when compared to back pain. Additionally, kidney pain can radiate to the abdomen or crotch area. In contrast, if back pain radiates, it typically travels down the legs. 

  • Frequency

As mentioned in the previous section, back pain can usually be improved by changing the position of the body. Patients may find temporary back pain relief by bending forward, standing up, or sitting down. 

Kidney pain, on the other hand, won’t improve with different positions or movements. It tends to be constant. 

  • Other symptoms

Serious kidney problems can cause other symptoms, including fatigue, fever, and body aches. If you experience these symptoms with what you suspect is kidney pain, or if the pain is sudden and excruciating, visit a doctor immediately. 

Can Prostate Problems Cause Lower Back Pain?

Yes, prostate problems can cause lower back pain in men. Recurrent pain or stiffness in the lower back is a symptom of prostate problems, along with:

  • A frequent impulse to urinate
  • Having to get up at night several times to urinate
  • Painful ejaculation
  • Pain or burning while urinating
  • Bloody semen or urine
  • Persistent pain and/or stiffness in the hips, pelvis rectal area, or upper thighs
  • Urinary dribbling

If you experience these symptoms of prostate problems, seek out urgent medical care. 

What Organs Can Cause Lower Back Pain in Men?

The kidneys, prostate, bladder, colon, liver, gallbladder, and appendix are organs that can cause lower back pain in men. With organ-related lower back pain, you may experience pain in only one side of the back. 

Why is Back Pain at Night a Red Flag?

Back pain at night is considered a red flag because it can be a sign of a serious condition, like cancer or an infection. This is particularly true for back pain that doesn’t just continue at night but worsens when you’re sleeping. 

If you experience worsening back pain at night, it doesn’t necessarily indicate a serious medical issue. But, especially if you experience other symptoms in conjunction with back pain, you should schedule an appointment with your doctor. Other symptoms to keep an eye out for with back pain at night include saddle anesthesia, incontinence, and weakness, numbness, or pain in the leg muscles. 

What Helps Back Pain for Men?

Prompt medical treatment and self-care help back pain for men. If you’re concerned about an underlying condition that could be causing your back pain, remember that the great majority of back pain cases in men involve muscle trauma, strains, or other minor injuries. These common conditions resolve on their own with rest and proper care.

However, if your back pain persists despite at-home therapies, a qualified medical specialist can identify the problem. After diagnosing the condition, your physician can recommend a variety of effective treatment options, most of which are non-invasive. Even serious spinal conditions such as degenerative disc disease and spinal stenosis can be effectively treated.

When non-invasive treatments fail to provide relief after six to 12 months, your physician may recommend surgery. Spinal decompression surgery can relieve pressure on spinal nerves, dramatically reducing pain and the other symptoms associated with various spinal conditions.

Thankfully, patients today no longer need to surrender the full range of spinal motion to benefit from spinal decompression surgery. In the past, spinal fusion surgery was routinely performed in conjunction with spinal decompression surgery to stabilize the spine. Now, the TOPS™ System is available as a spinal fusion alternative.

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Bonnie explains why TOPS surgery was the right decision for her

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Scott speaks about going to surgery

As a non-fusion implant, the TOPS™ System enables spinal decompression patients to maintain their full range of spinal motion. Instead of fusing adjacent vertebrae at the point of the decompression surgery, this implant allows each vertebra to maintain independent flexion and lateral motion.

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Though men are likely to experience back pain at some point in life, they have many advanced treatment options to choose from today. With these effective therapies, men can achieve relief from back pain, even in its most serious forms.