Medical questions & health advice by licensed doctors
"I have back pain that radiates to my leg and shoulder? What could it be?"
I'm an a teenaged female, experiencing sharp, pinching lower back pain that radiates to my leg, and now my shoulder. It is only on the right side of my lower back, the left side is fine. I'm not an athlete, but I spend a good amount of time on my feet, instead of laying down all day. I have had this pain for about 5-6 weeks. It went away briefly a week or so ago, but it came back more painful and intense. I have also been getting intense headaches. They started when my back pain started. My headache is almost constant, and the more my back hurts, the more my head hurts. I don't take pain meds considering I'm allergic to most kinds. I do have a history of cancer. Last year, I was diagnosed with an immature ovarian teratoma, and underwent 4 months of chemo. I've never had back pain or head aches before. It is all very unusual to me, and I would like to get to the bottom of it.
If you are concerned about back pain, I recommend that you see your primary care doctor for formal evaluation and possible intervention, if necessary. Back pain can have multiple causes, some benign and others more severe. The most common cause of lower back pain is muscle strain. This means that a muscle or group of muscles have developed a tear either due to an acute traumatic incident, or as is more common, due to overuse. The tear results in local inflammation that results in spasm and pain, which can radiate from the affected area. When back muscles are strained, it results in compensation in other muscles in order to maintain posture, which can result in soreness in other regions of the body, and headache due to muscle tension that correlates in severity with back pain is not uncommon. However, the can be other more serious causes of back pain that include damage to the bones or disks of the back. Vertebrae can have several fracture patterns that may cause pain, though are typically associated with a specific injury or older age. Injury to the soft tissue disks, i.e. herniation may similarly result in unilateral pain. Finally, in any patient that has previously been treated for neoplasm, we consider recurrence or metastases to the back. It is important that you see your doctor in order to rule out sinister causes and receive the appropriate treatment.
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