New York Spine Institute Spine Services

What Can Cause Burning Back Pain?

Timothy T. Roberts, M.D., ORTHOPEDIC SPINE SPECIALIST

What Can Cause Burning Back Pain?

By: Timothy T. Roberts, M.D. FAAOS

Dr. Roberts earned his Doctorate of Medicine from Tufts University School of Medicine in Boston, Massachusetts. He completed his orthopedic residency at Albany Medical College. Dr. Roberts then went on to complete the neurosurgery/orthopaedic spine surgery-combined fellowship at the prestigious Cleveland Clinic. Following graduation, Dr. Roberts worked for several years in a large private practice in Florida, but has since returned to his native New York.

With the holiday season upon us, it is easy to feel the effects of traveling, decorating and gift wrapping in areas of your back. You may experience aches or the urge to pop or stretch your back to alleviate this discomfort as quickly as possible. However, a burning sensation in your back can signify other health conditions that can take time to heal. Luckily, by knowing the causes and treatment options, you can feel relief in your back to return to your favorite activities in no time.

Learn about the signs, risks and treatments for burning back pain below.

Causes of Burning Back Pain

Often, back pain can result from bending over frequently, sitting with poor posture or sleeping in an unusual position. However, a tingling sensation in the back or burning pain typically indicates an underlying health condition that can make the cause challenging to pinpoint.

The most common causes of burning back pain include the following health conditions.

  • Shingles: If you notice a rash where the tingling pain in your back is, you may be experiencing shingles. If you had chickenpox as a child, these temporary spots may reemerge down the road as a painful viral infection in the body. The rash can appear as oozing or blistering or cause a bright red stripe to take over a portion of your back. Shingles will cause a surface-level tingling or burning sensation on the skin rather than deep internal pain.
  • Spinal disk conditions: When the disks in our spines wear down over time with age, this natural process can cause spinal disk conditions that result in burning or tingling sensations in the back. Without proper treatment to relieve these symptoms, disk degeneration can develop into prolonged back conditions, including sciatica, a herniated disk, adult scoliosis, spondylolisthesis and spinal stenosis. 
  • Arachnoiditis: Spinal surgeries, back injuries and compression of your spine can cause arachnoiditis. This nerve condition appears when the tissue in your back that protects your spinal nerves becomes inflamed and scars the tissue. As a result, you can feel burning pain, tingling or numbness in the lower back and down your backside. 
  • Back spasms: Contacting muscles that continue to pull in the back can range from dull aches to burning pain in the middle of the back if they tense for long periods. 
  • Arthritis: Similar to the aches you can feel in your wrists, knees and fingers, you can also get arthritis in your spine. The cartilage surrounding the joints in your spine breaks down over time and can cause the spinal disks to become inflamed. Arthritis can result in a tingling sensation or burning aches along the spine.

What Are the Risk Factors of Burning Back Pain?

The underlying health conditions listed above can occur naturally with age, an illness or a sudden injury. While back pain can appear out of nowhere, a few risk factors could cause these symptoms. If you have any of these conditions, alert your doctor as soon as possible to identify the cause of your back pain. 

The risk factors associated with back pain include the following.

  • Mental conditions: Chronic stress, anxiety and depression can physically impact back muscles, typically causing them to tense for long periods. Tensed back muscles can result in back spasms that feel like a burning, tingling or numb sensation, impacting movement. 
  • Decrease in exercise: A lack of muscle activity or stretching each day can cause areas of your back to stiffen, leading to numbness and burning sensations. 
  • Lifting heavy objects: The muscles need strength to lift heavy objects without causing pain. When you use your back muscles to lift items, the tissue surrounding the spine can inflame and tear, leading to burning sensations along your spine. You may also cause damage to your back muscles when not lifting from the legs. 
  • Diseases: It may seem strange to think something as minor as chickenpox and arthritis can significantly impact your back and movements, but these diseases are some of the leading causes of burning back pain. Chickenpox is a prevalent childhood disease that can result in shingles later in life, while arthritis can appear during adulthood from overusing your joints. 
  • Age: Some back pain occurs naturally with age, including spinal disk conditions and arthritis. Burning sensations from a herniated disk or aches in your spinal joints are typical in older generations, but you can still seek treatments for these symptoms to feel relief as soon as possible. 
  • Smoking: Coughing from cigarette smoke can cause lower back pain or burning sensations from a herniated disk. A lack of blood flow to the spine can also cause numbness and tingling due to smoking.

    What Are the Treatment Options for Burning Back Pain?

    Since back pain can impact your health, well-being and daily routine, you must find the best solution as quickly as possible. With the right specialists and plans to relieve your back pain by your side, you can return to your favorite activities and daily schedule.

    Treatment options for burning back pain can be a journey of physical changes to your body without surgery or a quick procedure to offer relief faster. Depending on what causes your back pain, a doctor may recommend surgical or non-surgical methods to get you back to feeling yourself again. 

    If you prefer holding off on surgery and your doctor gives you the green light to receive non-surgical treatments, you might try the following six spine remedies to relieve burning back pain:

    1. Physical therapy
    2. Lifestyle changes
    3. Electrical stimulation
    4. Epidural steroid injections
    5. Spinal cord manipulation
    6. A back brace

    In some cases, your back condition may require surgery to correct the spine’s structure to relieve compression. Luckily, most spinal surgeries to alleviate burning back pain are minimally invasive or can alleviate pain quicker than non-surgical methods. 

    Common neurosurgeries associated with back pain include the following:

    • Spinal fusion
    • Artificial disk replacement
    • Laminectomy
    • Cervical or lumbar discectomy
    • Kyphoplasty and vertebroplasty 

    When You Should See a Doctor

    Over time, minor back pain can evolve into a health condition that disrupts your daily routine. To avoid changing your day-to-day plans or adapting to new circumstances due to burning back pain, you should see a doctor as soon as possible to assess your needs. 

    If your back pain results from a herniated disk, spinal stenosis, scoliosis, vertebral fractures or sciatica, your doctor will most likely recommend visiting a neurosurgeon as quickly as you can make an appointment. These conditions are more challenging to treat without surgery, so having a trusted neurosurgeon to provide the relief your back needs to function correctly is essential. 

    If you suspect you are living with one of those conditions, you can skip the doctor’s office and meet with a neurosurgeon immediately. They can help uncover the cause of your burning back pain and assess the best treatment option for you.

    Relieve Back Pain With New York Spine Institute

    When you need relief from burning back pain, New York Spine Institute can help. We are proud to be one of the largest multi-specialty spine and orthopedic centers in the tri-state area. With our growing team of dedicated patient-care providers, our top priority is assessing your medical needs with experience, research and advanced training so you can enjoy an improved quality of life. 

    Our wide range of services focuses on the first step of diagnosing your back condition, finding the right treatment options and managing your pain. We are there for you every step of the way to ensure an efficient recovery for your back pain.

    Schedule an appointment today to find the comfort you and your back need.