Back pain is one of the most commonly experienced symptoms among adults. Although men are less likely to seek medical attention for back pain than women, they’re more prone to developing back problems especially if their line of work requires manual labor. Back pain is usually caused by incorrect lifting or degenerative changes in the spine which can be controlled with back strengthening exercises and anti-inflammatory medications; but in some cases, physical therapy or even surgery may be needed. Although most causes of back pain in men are due to aging and overuse, there are other conditions that need to be ruled out when back pain is persistent. Here are some other, sometimes overlooked, disorders that can cause back pain in men.
Causes of Back Pain in Men: Kidney Stones
People unfortunate enough to experience kidney stones can develop side pain that radiates into the back. Kidney stones are more frequently seen in men and become more common with age. Men with kidney stones usually experience pain in the back, flank, or abdominal region which may be associated with an increased urge to urinate, burning with urination, or nausea. Since the pain only occurs when the kidney stone moves, it may come and go. New onset of severe back or flank pain, especially in a person with a history of kidney stones, needs to be evaluated to rule out this common cause of back pain.
Causes of Back Pain in Men: Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm
This not infrequent cause of back pain is often missed by patients and doctors alike. An abdominal aortic aneurysms occurs when the large blood vessel that carries blood to the pelvis and lower extremities weakens and balloons out. The danger of missing it is that the vessel can rupture with potentially catastrophic consequences. Men are five times more likely to suffer from an abdominal aortic aneurysm than women and they can present with back pain as the first symptom. Although they may be asymptomatic, men who have abdominal aneurysms can experience abdominal or back pain and cramping in the legs and feet when walking. Fortunately, abdominal aortic aneurysms can usually be repaired surgically before they rupture. Abdominal aortic aneurysms are more common in men with hypertension or heart disease. Any man over the age of fifty with heart disease or high blood pressure, back pain, and leg cramping should see a doctor immediately.
Causes of Back Pain in Men: Prostate Cancer
Persistent back pain that worsens over time despite treatment may be due to cancer. It’s not uncommon for certain forms of cancer to spread to the spine. In men, one of the most common cancers to do this is prostate cancer. Back pain that’s associated with cancer usually gradually gets worse over time and may be associated with weight loss, night sweats, and fatigue. Any back pain in men that doesn’t improve after a few weeks needs evaluation.
Causes of Back Pain in Men: Other Causes
Another cause of back pain in men that’s sometimes overlooked is osteoporosis. (Yes, men get it too). Osteoporosis can lead to painful compression fractures. Other more common causes of back pain in men are disc problems, spinal arthritis, and narrowing of the spinal canal – a condition known as spinal stenosis. These conditions can usually be diagnosed with an x-ray or MRI study.
The bottom line? Don’t assume that back pain in a man is due to a strained muscle if it’s persistent or is associated with other symptoms. Back pain can be a sign of a more serious, even life threatening condition. If it fails to improve, see a doctor.