Where Does it Hurt Series

Ankle/Foot | Back | Elbow | Head/Neck | Hips/Thighs | Knee | Shin/Calf | Shoulder | Wrist/Hand

* Please Note: Below is a listing of some but not all conditions that physical therapists treat. This page is intended for informational purposes only. The information below should in no way be considered complete and in no way should be used for diagnostic or treatment purposes. Please consult your physician, physical therapist or other healthcare provider for more information on the condition that concerns you.


Low Back Pain

The lower back bears most of the body’s weight and can be easily injured when you lift, reach, or twist. Pain in the lower back may come from the spine, back muscles, nerves, or other structures in the surrounding region. It may also radiate from problems in different regions, like the mid and upper back, a hernia in the groin, or issues in the ovaries/testicles.

It may not be one action that causes pain in the back. Doing many things improperly over time, like sitting, standing, and lifting, may lead your back to be injured when you do something simple like bending down to pick up a dropped pencil.


  • A variety of symptoms may be felt
  • Tingling or burning sensation
  • Dull aching or sharp pain
  • Weakness in legs or feet
  • Pain may come on gradually or abruptly

Herniated Disc

The vertebrae of our spine are separated by intervertebral discs, or spongy cushions in between the vertebrae. They act as shock absorbers and keep the spine flexible. These discs may herniate (move out of place) or rupture due to trauma or strain. The slipped disc may press against a nerve, causing severe pain. A herniated disc may occur in any part of the spine, though it is most common in the lower back (lumbar spine). It also occurs in the cervical spine (neck) and rarely in the upper back (thoracic spine).

A herniated disc may be caused by wear and tear of the disc. Aging leads to the disc drying out and losing flexibility. Injury to the spine causes tiny tears and cracks in the outer layer of the spine, letting the gel in the disc bulge out.

Because the two most common occurrences are in the lower back and neck, 2 sets of symptoms are provided below:

Symptoms of a herniated lumbar disc:

  • Severe lower pack pain
  • Pain radiating to the buttocks, legs, and feet
  • Tingling or numbness in feet or legs
  • Muscle weakness or spasms

Symptoms of a herniated cervical disc:

  • Neck pain, especially when trying to flex or tilt the neck
  • Deep pain over the shoulder blades
  • Pain radiating to the upper limbs
  • Weakness in the upper limbs
  • Muscle spasms or weakness in the neck

Osteoarthritis (OA)

OA is the most common joint disorder. The cartilage (or cushioning) between bone joints wears away in this condition, leading to pain and stiffness. As the condition progresses, the cartilage dissipates and bone grinds on bone. Bony spurs usually form around the joint. OA most commonly affects the hands, feet, spine, and the weight-bearing joints like the hips and knees.

The two types of OA are primary and secondary. Primary occurs with no incidence of injury or obvious cause. Secondary is due to another condition. Secondary OA is most commonly caused by metabolic conditions (i.e., acromegaly), problems in anatomy (i.e., being “bow-legged”), injury, and inflammatory disorders (i.e., septic arthritis).


  • Deep aching joint pain that is worse after exercise or any application of weight and is relieved by rest
  • Grating of the joint with motion
  • Joint pain in rainy weather
  • Joint swelling
  • Limited movement
  • Morning stiffness