Back pain: When your back pain could signal a vascular disorder – symptoms to spot

Back pain is a common condition many people experience at some point in their lives. The most common type is lower back pain. While pain in the back is not usually serious and normally clears up by itself over time, it can be extremely uncomfortable to live with. Occasionally, your back pain could signal something far more serious including a condition known as abdominal aortic aneurysm.

There are a number of disorders involving the abdominal organs that can produce back pain symptoms, and some of these disorders are quite serious, said St Vincent Charity Medical Centre.

The health site continued: “Although rare, they cannot be overlooked.

“The most serious vascular disorder presenting as back pain is the abdominal aortic aneurysm.

“Patients are often difficult to diagnose early on, as initial symptoms may be subtle and non-specific.

“As the process gets worse, the pain becomes deep-seated and localized to the thoracic or thoracolumbar segments of the spine.

“If your doctors have already said you have an aneurysm, then intense pain, undiminished by narcotics, should trigger you to go immediately to the emergency room.”

What is abdominal aortic aneurysm?

An abdominal aortic aneurysm is an enlarged area in the lower part of the major vessel that supplies blood to the body (aorta), explained the Mayo Clinic.

The site added: “The aorta runs from your heart through the centre of your chest and abdomen.

“Depending on the size of the aneurysm and how fast it’s growing, treatment varies from watchful waiting to emergency surgery.”

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Abdominal aortic aneurysms often grow slowly without symptoms, making them difficult to detect. Some aneurysms never rupture. Many start small and stay small; others expand over time, some quickly.

If you have an enlarging abdominal aortic aneurysm, you might notice:

Deep, constant pain in your abdomen or on the side of your abdomen

Back pain

A pulse near your bellybutton

Back pain is often triggered by disorders of the gastrointestinal tract.

Ulcers may cause upper lumbar back pain.

A perforated ulcer is said to trigger intense pain and spasm, as well as signs of generalised illness and an acute abdomen.

Any type of kidney disease may also cause back pain with kidney stones being a notorious cause of severe, incapacitating back pain.

This kind of pain typically comes in waves, causing intense back spasms and pain for a few minutes, then easing off for a bit before coming back with a vengeance.

Pain like this is referred to as colic, and is typical for kidney stones, gall stones and kidney infections.

The key to identifying any of these disorders is a proper abdominal exam – meaning your doctor will want to get you into a gown, down on an exam table and carefully assess you, said St Vincent Charity Medical Centre.

“A simple x-ray can reveal or exclude the cause in many cases, but an abdominal CT scan may be needed to further clarify the problem.

“Identifying and treating the most dangerous causes of back pain is a matter of careful medical evaluation – with a proper examination, appropriate labs and the right imaging studies.”

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