Dorsalgia: Types, Causes, Symptoms, Treatment, Surgery

What is Dorsalgia?

Dorsalgia is a collective name given to a group of conditions that produce moderate to intense pain in the muscles, nerves, bones, joints or other structures which are associated with the spinal column of the body. This pain can be intermittent or constant depending on the type of injury or pathology and it can be localized to one particular area of the spine or can be spread to include various areas.

The pain may also radiate to other parts of the body, especially the upper or lower extremities depending on the area of pathology in the spine along with numbness and tingling sensation. Since dorsal means back and algia means pain then medically speaking Dorsalgia actually means back pain or pain around the back region. The pain caused by Dorsalgia can be burning or stinging at times. It tends to radiate from the vertebral column to other areas of the body especially the upper or lower extremities depending on which area of the spinal column is affected.

Osteoporosis, kyphosis, lordosis, sciatica, lumbago, disc herniation, disc bulge or an injury or trauma to the spinal column as a result of a motor vehicle accident or an assault are some of the common conditions that may result in Dorsalgia.

What is Dorsalgia?

What Causes Dorsalgia?

As stated above, Dorsalgia can be caused by a variety of medical conditions like osteoporosis which is quite common in menopausal females, disc herniation or bulge in which a vertebral disc tends to protrude from its normal anatomical place and impinges on the surrounding nerve roots causing Dorsalgia.

Degenerative disc disease is yet another condition which can cause Dorsalgia. DDD is common in people above the age of 50 in which the discs of the spinal column tends to degenerate as a result of normal wear and tear and the process of aging.

Stress also plays a factor in development of Dorsalgia. An injury or direct trauma to the spinal column like in a motor vehicle accident or an assault with a gunshot wound or a stab wound to the spinal column may also cause Dorsalgia.

What are the Symptoms of Dorsalgia?

The symptoms of Dorsalgia are variable and differ from individual to individual depending on the underlying cause of Dorsalgia. Some of the common symptoms of Dorsalgia include stinging or burning like pain in the back or neck, difficulty in changing posture, difficulty with getting up from a seated position, difficulty with bending or stooping, difficulty ambulating in some cases.

In case if Dorsalgia is caused as a result of a disc protrusion or disc bulge which is impinging on the adjacent nerve root then the affected individual may experience additional symptoms of numbness and tingling along with intense radiating pain in the upper or lower extremities making it difficult for him or her to carry out normal activities of daily living either at work or at home as a result of Dorsalgia.

What are the Different Types of Dorsalgia?

Depending on the location of pain and injury, Dorsalgia has been classified into the following types:

Cervical Dorsalgia

This type of Dorsalgia occurs in the neck due to an injury or degeneration of the cervical spine causing pain in the neck. If the nerve roots of cervical spine get affected then the pain may radiate down the arms and hands with numbness and tingling in the arms and hands. It is also known by the term of Cervicalgia.

Cervicothoracic Dorsalgia

This type of Dorsalgia occurs when both the cervical and thoracic spine are involved.

Thoracic Dorsalgia

This type of Dorsalgia occurs when only the thoracic spine is involved. Since the thoracic spine is one of the least used spinal structures of the body hence Thoracic Dorsalgia is a rare occurrence.

Thoracolumbar Dorsalgia

This type of Dorsalgia is occurs when both the thoracic and lumbar spine are involved. This may result in upper or lower back pain.

Lumbar Dorsalgia

This is the most common type of Dorsalgia and involves the lumbar spine. Lumbar spine is perhaps the most used spinal structure in the body and hence the wear and tear takes it toll on the spine causing Lumbar Dorsalgia

Lumbosacral Dorsalgia

This type of Dorsalgia occurs when the lumbar spine and the sacral region are involved.

How is Dorsalgia Treated?

Treatment for Dorsalgia can be both conservative and surgical. Mild cases of Dorsalgia can be treated conservatively with physical therapy and NSAIDs for pain relief. Additionally, muscle relaxants may be prescribed for pain and muscle spasms which tend to occur as a result of Dorsalgia.

For radiating pain affecting the nerves, nerve medications like Neurontin or Lyrica are prescribed for pain relief. Additionally, alternating heat and ice for 15-20 minutes two to three times a day for pain relief is also recommended.

Surgical Treatment for Dorsalgia

If conservative treatment is not effective in alleviating Dorsalgia then depending on the cause of Dorsalgia the following surgical procedures are recommended.

Artificial Disc Replacement

This surgical procedure is done when it is identified that a damaged disc is the cause of the patient’s Dorsalgia. Once rare, this form of surgical procedure is now starting to become more common and preferred treatment for Dorsalgia caused by a damaged disc. The surgical treatment procedure for Dorsalgia involves replacing the damaged disc with an artificial one which performs the same function as the original one.


This type of surgery is done for Dorsalgia caused by a disc herniation. In this procedure, the disc that causes Dorsalgia is removed completely.


This surgical procedure is done for patients who have Dorsalgia caused by osteoporosis. This may not cure osteoporosis by may slow down the process and relieve the pain caused by Dorsalgia.

Electrical Stimulation to Treat Dorsalgia

In this form of treatment, an electric device is implanted on the spinal column which blocks the pain signals to the brain thus offering pain relief from Dorsalgia.

Spinal Fusion

This surgical procedure is done for Dorsalgia caused by conditions like herniated disc, degenerative disc disease, spondylolisthesis and the like. In this procedure the offending disc which is causing pain is removed and the level above and below the offending disc is fused together to treat pain caused by Dorsalgia.

It should be understood that some of the causes of Dorsalgia are irreversible and hence the aim of the treatment is to achieve maximal improvement from pain with returning back to normal activities at the earliest possible time and to help deal with any residual pain that may be caused as a result of surgery or other forms of treatment of Dorsalgia.

Team PainAssist
Team PainAssist
Written, Edited or Reviewed By: Team PainAssist, Pain Assist Inc. This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer
Last Modified On:June 6, 2019

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