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Sudden Sharp Back Pain

Updated February 21, 2017

Sudden sharp back pain can be a symptom of many conditions and injuries. Diagnosing the problem will first depend upon the location on your back where the pain is located. Causes for sharp sudden back pain can range from a pulled muscle to life-threatening conditions. Pain can radiate and mimic other conditions than that of the origin.

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Radiating pain is common, and when it is felt suddenly in the back, it may be mistaken for an injury. For this reason people who are having a heart attack may delay getting immediate proper medical attention. Pain from one of the body's organs can mimic an injury to a muscle. This is also true with an injury. A disc that becomes herniated may cause pain in a completely different area of the back or even down a leg.

Upper-Back Pain

A sudden sharp pain in the upper back can be a symptom of a heart attack. Although it is your heart muscle that is causing the pain, it can feel as if it is coming from between the shoulder blades. A sharp pain in this area can also be caused by a muscle strain. The area between the shoulder blades has muscles that can be strained or pulled from all kinds of activities that involve pushing, lifting and pulling. Another cause of sharp upper-back pain can be a disc that has herniated in the spinal column of the neck or upper back.

Middle-to-Lower-Back Pain

Sudden acute back pain in the middle to the lower area of the back can be a symptom of pneumonia. Other organs causing sharp pain in this area can be your kidneys, gall bladder and liver. Gall stones and kidney stones can cause sharp pain that comes on suddenly and radiates to your back. Injuries to the muscles or discs in your back can also cause pain in this area.

Lower-Back Pain

One of the more common causes of sharp pain to your lower back is a pinched nerve, or sciatica. This type of pain is usually felt on just one side of the lower back. A bowel obstruction can cause a sharp and sudden pain in this area. Pain from appendicitis can travel to the lower back area also.


Diagnosing the origin of the pain is usually done with blood work, X-rays, CAT scans and MRIs. Blood work is used to diagnose sudden back pain that may come from an organ such as the heart, liver, kidney and bladder. There are certain antibodies in the blood that are present for some of these conditions. The pictures from the scans and X-rays can show broken bones and inflammation from an injury, such as a pulled muscle.

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About the Author

Roz Zurko is a full time freelance writer who lives in Westfield, Massachusetts. She has been writing for 22 years and is published on several internet literary sites and in The Westfield Evening News. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology from The University of New Haven and Westfield State College.

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