Skip to main content

Causes and Treatment of Tender Spot on Spine When Pressed

By Last updated on April 17th, 2023April 17th, 2023No Comments

A tender spot on the spine refers to one or more red areas on your back that cause pain when pressed. These vague spots are associated with multiple reasons, including spinal infections, muscle strains, or pinched nerves. 

The treatment of tender spots on the spine varies according to their cause. Depending on the intensity and position of your tender spots, your healthcare provider may suggest different healing methods. These include modifying activities, non-surgical decompression techniques, or cell-based therapies. 

What Causes Tender Spots on the Back?

What Causes Tender Spots on the Back

Many internal and external factors can cause tenders spots on your back. The most common factors of a tender spot on spine when pressed are:

Spinal Disc Problems

If you feel pain in your spinal column, you’re likely to have a herniated, damaged, or bulging spinal disc. In such a condition, spinal discs can easily dislocate from their actual positions. The inner disc may slip outward, disrupting or pinching the nearby nerves. 

As a result, a tender spot may develop at that place, particularly noticeable when you apply pressure to it. Many people feel more pain when touching the area, but some find compression therapies helpful in pain relief. 

Spinal Infections

Spinal infections are primarily visible with tender spots on the affected area. These spots cause pain for a few days and then fade away, but in some instances, they worsen and transform into chronic pain. Many people also experience other signs of spinal infections along with tender spots, including chills and fever. 

If you had spinal surgery a few days back and observe the signs of infection, consult your healthcare professional immediately. Early intervention can prevent the infection from getting severe. 

Spinal Strains and Sprain

When your muscles or tendons get strained, it results in tender spots on or around your spine. Muscle sprains are inflamed areas that feel tender when touched, also known as spinal muscle cramps. Athletes are more susceptible to spinal muscle strains if they don’t correctly stretch before the activity.

Most of these muscle strains can easily be treated with rest and physical therapy. However, never ignore your spinal pain, as doing so can increase the risks of muscle tears. 

If the tenderness persists, your healthcare professional will suggest another treatment.

Treatment for Tender Spots on Spine

Isolated spinal tenderness goes away within a few days of rest, icing, and heat application. However, your doctor may suggest different treatment options if these methods don’t work out.

Non-Surgical Decompression Techniques

Non-surgical decompression therapy presses the affected parts of your spine to promote healing cells. A healthcare provider usually uses a motorized table and harness that causes a spinal distraction by pulling the upper and lower back. This gives your spine an effective traction force to heal several spasms and strains. 

Massage Therapy or Chiropractic Manipulation

Chiropractic manipulation or care is an effective musculoskeletal pain-relieving massage therapy. Massage therapy targets the tender spot on spine when pressed and relieves muscle stiffness and tension near the spine and other joints. 

During the massage therapy session, chiropractic manipulation aims to adjust your spine and joint to their optimal positions.

Modifying Activities

Mild back pain or tender spots on the spine can heal with a proper exercise routine consisting of several modifying activities. These exercises help alleviate the causes of back pain, primarily muscle stiffness and spasms. Most of them are stretching activities that encourage your spine to become more active. 

Some of the best modifying activities for tender spots on the spine include:

  • Back flexion exercise
  • Knee to chest stretch
  • Chin to chest stretch
  • Ear-to-shoulder stretch
  • Hip stretch

Over-the-Counter or Prescription Anti-Inflammatory Drugs

Mainly, a tender spot on spine when pressed indicates inflammation near your spinal area. This is why doctors suggest over-the-counter (OTC) medications and prescribe anti-inflammatory drugs to combat spinal infections and pain.

OTC drugs are usually recommended before the prescription ones for the treatment of spinal stenosis. It is the condition where the spaces within your spine narrow down, pressuring the nerves traveling through the spine. Spinal stenosis may give rise to tender spots. 

OTC medications primarily alleviate inflammation and pain. These include analgesics, such as:

  • Acetaminophen (e.g., Tylenol)
  • Aspirin
  • Ibuprofen (e.g., Motrin, Advil)
  • Naproxen (e.g., Aleve) 

Analgesics that relieve pain and inflammation simultaneously are known as non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). Your doctor may also prescribe prescription-strength NSAIDs, such as Celecoxib (Celebrex), to control spinal stenosis pain.

Stem Cell Therapy and Platelet-rich Plasma Therapy

Cell therapies focus on replacing your “autologous” (own) tissues or cells with new, healthy ones. The doctor generally recommends one of two types of stem cell therapy, including:

  • Minimally Manipulated Adipose Tissue Transplant (MMAT). This procedure includes the transplantation of adipose tissues to reconstruct different areas. MMAT can involve transplanting multiple locations, which can be easily performed in the same procedure. 
  • Bone Marrow Concentrate (BMAC). This method replaces the affected cells from your bone marrow.

Stem cell therapy takes about 1.5-2 hours to complete, and you’ll go home after the procedure.

Platelet Rich Plasma (PRP) therapy aims to stimulate the growth of new and healthy tissues. This “orthobiologic procedure” has been used to treat both orthopedic and spine-related injuries in sports, orthopedic, and spine medicine.

PRP procedures are usually completed within 45 minutes.

How Long Does it Take to Recover From a Spine-related Issue? 

The recovery time of spine-related injuries may vary depending on the severity and level of the condition. Your efforts and lifestyle also play a significant role in speeding up your prognosis. Your doctor may not give you an exact recovery duration right away, but the fastest recovery time for spine issues has been recorded at six months. 

Some people may take more time and recover in one to two years. Make sure you keep your doctor informed about your improvements and the medications you’re taking. This will prevent your doctor from suggesting any OTC or prescribed drug that may cause drug interactions.

An expert physical therapist can make a massive difference in shortening your recovery time. So make sure to work with a professional therapist and practice a healthy lifestyle to heal quicker.

Dr. Pouya Mohajer

Director of Regenerative Interventional Spine Medicine
Board certification in Anesthesiology and Interventional Pain Medicine
Fellowship-trained from Harvard University
UCLA Alumni


View Our Treatments