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Anatomy of a Back Pain Location Chart

man with back pain for a back pain location chart


If you’re like me, you’ve had the unfortunate experience of sporadic (or even chronic) back pain that can inconvenience you when you least expect it. Because back pain is so common nowadays (thanks to technology and a sedentary lifestyle), we have to be vigilant in our efforts to either prevent it or improve it. 

Despite my nursing experience and growing passion for health and wellness, you could say that my history with back pain could be better. I’ve gone to a chiropractor for pain before, but never a pain management clinic. 

For more intense situations, you may have stumbled upon a back pain location chart. If you’re wondering what it entails, we’ll explore this here.

Back Pain Location Chart 101

According to the NIH, “Back pain is one of the most common causes for which patients seek emergency care. This symptom tends to be persistent, causing some individuals significant disability.” [1]

Similar to a trigger point chart, a back pain location chart would clarify where your pain is and what may be causing it.

Different concepts for what a back pain location chart may entail:  

  1. Visual location of back pain
  2. Part of a medical chart if other symptoms are present (used for diagnosis)
  3. Other supplemental documentation to improve treatment 
  4. Dermatome map (more on this later!)

Depending on where you’re being examined, there are different types of charts that may be used. Whether you’re having upper, middle or lower back pain may influence what type of chart your provider uses as well. 

When would you use a back pain location chart?

This is a great question to explore. You could honestly use a simplified back pain location chart at home (out of curiosity).  This would be helpful if you needed a visual aid that can help you determine if your pain is muscle strain or maybe something more. However, if you have severe back pain, don’t overlook the importance of getting seen by your provider. 

Ultimately, your healthcare provider may use a back pain location chart to ensure they’re able to provide an accurate diagnosis. Having the right diagnosis is key in determining more serious conditions such as spinal stenosis or herniated discs. 

Other examples of when a back pain location chart may be used:

  • Initial assessment
  • Physical Therapy
  • Orthopedic consult
  • Chiropractor consult
  • Pain management clinic

Documentation is essential in keeping track of progress and hopefully your pain improvement as you go through treatment. 

What is a dermatome map?

Some pain centers may use a dermatome map to gain more insight on back or neck pain. A dermatome has been defined as “an area of skin receiving sensory innervation from a single spinal nerve dorsal root.” 

A dermatome itself may be considered a nerve pathway that your brain uses to send a physical signal that controls your muscles within that dermatome. 

This type of chart can help determine if the pain originates from your spinal nerves or spinal cord.

Common Causes for Back Pain 

Beyond the convenience of having a back pain location chart, it may be useful to know what’s causing your pain. (This is not for diagnosing yourself - just a possible list of causes). 

Here are some common reasons for back pain: 


  • Muscle strain
  • Trigger points
  • Injury (falls, or accidents)
  • Muscle imbalance
  • Sciatica


  • Fractures
  • Herniated disc
  • Spinal stenosis
  • Osteoarthritis 


  • Sciatica
  • Emotional stress
  • Bad posture
man showing bad posture will need back pain location chart

Of course, this list is not all inclusive. In addition to trigger points, there is referred pain, meaning it originates from a location other than where it is felt. Additionally, pain is subjective and can be experienced entirely different by others despite a similar diagnosis. 

Tips for Preventing and Managing Back Pain

Back pain can be debilitating and is a cause for disability in many people. Here are some actionable steps we can take today to make sure we can stay one step ahead of the pain.

Proper ergonomics: Bad posture can cause unnecessary muscle tension and put pressure on your neck and shoulders. If you sit long hours, try to take frequent breaks, stretch, and be aware of your default position. 

Regular exercise: Improving your overall body composition involves building muscle and also reinforcing your core. Building muscle is also crucial in preventing injury and muscle imbalance. 

Lifestyle modification:

In addition to frequent exercises, other steps you can take include:

  • Start a stretching routine
  • Maintain a health weight
  • Stress management
  • Proper form when lifting
  • Supportive equipment (ergonomic chairs or mattresses, for example)
  • Use massage therapy

If you haven’t tried a back muscle release tool, the QL Claw is our therapy tool of choice as it can literally massage every muscle that contributes to lower back pain when tight. It’s affordable, light, portable and user-friendly. 

Massage Tool For Back QL Claw

Back Pain Location Chart FAQ

How can I identify my back pain?

There are some key characteristics to take note of when identifying your back pain. 

While location, duration and intensity (on a 1-10 scale) may be obvious factors to be aware of, also be aware of other symptoms that may be present.

Also, what type of pain is it? Dull, sharp, shooting, stabbing? 

Does the pain worsen when you move?

These are some of the things you should likely take note of when describing it to your healthcare provider. 

How do I know if my back pain is organ related?

This can be a tricky one to answer. 

Based on the location, it may be organ-related if there is pain deep in your abdomen or lower back area (pelvis). 

The type of pain can also be different if it’s not muscle pain alone. Organ pain may cause a more dull or cramping pain - but this can be different for everyone.

A big red flag is if you have other symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, fever or chills. 

Diagnostic tests and a physical examination from your healthcare provider can help you conclude if your back pain is organ related. 

How can you tell if back pain is muscle or disc?

This is just as challenging to answer as the previous question. 

The characteristics are different. Muscle pain can be dull or achy while disc pain may be throbbing. Disc pain can also radiate beyond the affected area. 

Muscle pain tends to get better with rest while disc pain might worsen with rest (depending on the nature of the injury). A big characteristic behind disc pain is it may also worsen with bending, twisting or related movements. 

Where are the most common places for back pain?

Because of the nature of our lifestyle these days, lower back and neck pain is very common. 

There are many things that influence this type of back pain such as:

  • Sedentary lifestyle
  • Weight gain
  • Stress
  • Age
  • Job-related risks

Back Pain Location Chart: Conclusion

We now know that a back pain location chart can be a valuable tool for your accurate diagnosis. Proper documentation and visual precision in pinpointing your pain can help you achieve a speedy recovery and also keep track of any progress.

While you can use a simplified chart in an attempt to DIY, don’t hesitate to seek medical advice - especially if your pain is persistent. Truly knowing if your pain is organ-related can be a challenge without the necessary diagnostic tests.

Finally, don’t be the majority - live a pain-free life by taking all the steps you can! Educate yourself, be proactive, and equip yourself with the QL Claw.



Now that you've read about back pain location charts, check out our page: Why is My Lower Back Hurting So Bad?


[1] Casiano, V., Sarwan,G., Dydyk, A., Caracallo, M. Back pain. StatPearls, 2023.

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