Sharp Back Pain: Stabbing Pain in Back

A sudden sharp pain in the back can stop anyone in their tracks and the cause of a sudden sharp back pain or acute back pain is not always obvious. Different muscles, bones and connective tissues meet in the back; thus, individuals may experience back pain for a wide range of reasons.

The majority of people experience sharp back pain in the lower back as compared to the upper back. There are many common and less-common causes of sharp back pain, and they may be both mechanical and medical.

Sharp Back Pain: Common Causes

Sharp back pain which is caused by a mechanical problem with the bones, disks, ligaments, or muscles of the back is one of the most common types of back pain. Some of the most specific causes for acute or sharp back pain may include the following −

Muscle Spasm

It refers to prolonged contraction or stiffening of the back muscles, which are a result of trauma or repetitive strain. A muscle spasm can produce sharp back pain in either the upper or lower back.

A muscle strain or spasm might occur due to a simple action like suddenly bending down to pick something up or twisting while holding a heavy object. A sharp back pain due to muscle strain may cause a burning or tingling sensation or a radiating ache, especially in the lower back.

Slipped Disk

Slipped disk is also called a bulging disk, herniated disk, ruptured disk or pinched nerve. It occurs from the improper lifting of heavy objects or overly strenuous activity. One of the most common symptoms of a slipped disk is sciatica which occurs when sharp back pain shoots down through the buttocks into the legs.

Pain from sciatica may build up over time or come severely at once. It may vary from a dull ache or severe tearing to a burning feeling. The pain may be warm or sharp and may radiate from one side of the lower back down to the hip or buttocks.

Compression Fracture

It is a fracture of the vertebrae which are commonly known as spine bones. This fracture can be a result of trauma or osteoporosis (weakened bones) where the pain is often very sharp.


When the vertebrae themselves are infected, this condition is called osteomyelitis. It is a very rare vertebrae infection where back pain is generally accompanied by fever and other symptoms.

Other Causes of Sharp Back Pain

The rupture of the main artery in the abdomen which is called a ruptured splenic artery aneurysm may cause sharp back pain. Moreover, pyelonephritis, which is a kidney infection and pleurisy, which is an infection of the lining of the lungs and chest, may mimic back pain.

Additionally, there might be other symptoms that may call for immediate medical attention such as back pain with fever, numbness or tingling, acute pains in the extremities or groin or pelvis, progressive weakness, pain when coughing or urinating, difficulty in walking and loss of bowel or bladder control.

Pain in the lower back may occur from an injury. However, it may be a symptom of a chronic issue like incorrect posture, scoliosis, spinal stenosis, ankylosing spondylitis, kidney infection, arthritis, fibromyalgia or spinal cancer. Furthermore, in women, lower back pain might occur due to ovarian cysts, uterine fibroids and ovarian cancer.

If a person is diagnosed with any of these infections, appropriate treatment of the underlying cause may resolve the back pain. One must consult a doctor immediately if back pain occurs with any of the above-mentioned symptoms.

Remedies for Sharp Back Pain

Sharp lower back pain is one of the common sources of discomfort for people which may develop after doing strenuous activities like weightlifting, making a quick twisting or jerking motion involving the back.

The severity of the back pain and the level of injury may decide the medications or the type of treatment. Muscle spasms usually respond well to rest and hence, avoiding physical activity for a few days may heal the affected muscles. However, after a few days of rest, engaging in some physical activity under the guidance of a physical therapist can help strengthen the muscles.

Applying hot or cold packs may help cure symptoms like swelling and pain. Using a cold pack for 20 minutes for the first few days and later on, using a heat pack for a similar duration may help relax the tense muscles and promote blood circulation.

Sciatica may improve without medical treatment within four to six weeks, but if the pain persists, one may have to consult a healthcare provider. A doctor can prescribe pain relievers and suggest physical therapy to treat sciatica pain. Surgical procedures may include lumbar decompression surgery and microdiscectomy for curing sciatica pain.

Some Over-the-Counter (OTC) pain relievers like ibuprofen, acetaminophen, steroid injections and other anti-inflammatory medications may help relieve pain. Most often, minor cases of sharp back pain resolve by themselves, but some may need doctor's treatment and physical therapy to strengthen the muscles and prevent future injury.


There may be many causes of sharp back pain and most of them could be treated with simple remedies. But, if the home remedies do not work and the pain continues, one must consult a doctor and determine the exact cause. Doctors may prescribe the right medicines and suggest appropriate treatment to cure sharp back pain as per the causes and you can get back to your daytoday activities without any further delay.

Updated on: 23-Jan-2023


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