Back pain is an acute or chronic condition of discomfort anywhere in the back. Many causes are responsible for back pain, and you can have pain anywhere from your neck down to your buttocks. Dealing with back pain can sometimes be challenging.
In less severe cases, less invasive treatments, such as ice, heat, and medications, are enough to solve the problem. In other cases, you need to see a specialist and have surgery on your back.
The spine is made up of 33 flat, bony vertebrae with a jelly-like disc between them. It doesn't take much to throw this wonder of mechanical engineering out of alignment. When it does, it can often be very painful and difficult to treat.
Back pain is a common problem. Those who have jobs that require them to lift or pull heavy objects are more at risk, but even those who sit at a computer all day can experience this painful condition.
You don't have to be athletic to find yourself with this condition. In fact, the lack of exercise can make your back more susceptible to injury and pain.
3 Kinds of Back Pain
- Acute (episodic) - a single instance of pain, such as a back injury
- Recurring - back pain that comes and goes
- Chronic - constant pain with no relief
Causes of Back Pain
Since back pain is a vague term, your diagnosis will likely be a specific cause. For instance, less serious back pain is caused by a back strain. This is a pulled muscle or ligament that is most commonly caused by lifting a heavy object incorrectly.
One of the most classic causes of back pain is sciatica. Your back is made up of 33 vertebrae, or flat bones, that have a jelly-like disk between them for cushioning. When these disks become diseased and break open, they can push on the nerves running along the spinal column. This causes pain in the back and other areas that the nerve services. In sciatica, the offending disk is in the lumbar region, or lower back, and it impacts the sciatic nerve.
This nerve is the largest in the body, and it runs down the leg to the calf. Of course, disks can rupture and impinge on nerves anywhere along the spinal column, causing pain.
Arthritis is another cause of back pain. This is the breakdown of the connection between the joints of the vertebrae, and it can cause pain on movement. Spinal irregularities can also cause back pain. The condition scoliosis, or the abnormal side to side curvature of the spine, can lead to lifelong back pain unless it is treated. Other possible but less likely causes include cancer of the spine, infection, and cauda equina syndrome.
Back pain can be exquisitely painful, but that is often not the only symptom you will have. You can have simple muscular aches or a stabbing, shooting pain in your back at any point along the spinal column. However, the most common area for pain is the lower back, or lumbar region.
You may also have pain that shoots down your leg, trouble standing up straight, and a loss of mobility in your back. These common signs of back pain are important to note and report to your doctor for further evaluation.
Sometimes, though, you may have more severe symptoms that require immediate medical attention. Constant, intense pain that wakes you from sleep is one such symptom. You may have pain that radiates down your leg, but if it reaches as far as the knee, you need to tell your doctor. Likewise, any pain accompanied by numbness, tingling, or difficulty holding your urine or your bowel should be immediately reported to a doctor.
You should also be aware that a pulsing pain in your abdomen or extreme weight loss associated with back pain are not normal signs. They indicate something more complicated is happening in your body and should be examined immediately.
Back Pain Treatment
The standard treatment for uncomplicated back pain is rest, medications, and physical therapy. First, you need to rest your aching back to give it enough time to heal itself. Instead of continuing with the stressful situations that caused the problem, you need to remove yourself from them to restore your back to a pain-free state. Medications are often used to deal with back pain.
The most common type is non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications, such as ibuprofen. However, in more complicated cases, a narcotic medication is sometimes prescribed. In addition to medication, special exercises to strengthen the back and aid flexibility are performed in physical therapy. These will help you learn how to protect your back.
In extreme cases, injections and surgery may be necessary. Injections are steroid medications that are delivered to the disk site with a large needle. This medication helps to bring down the inflammation and relieve pain. When these measures do not work, surgery is often necessary. In these procedures, the disk is usually removed and the vertebrae are fused together.
You will lose flexibility in your back, and sometimes the pain is not resolved. This is why this method is usually only used as a last measure. With back pain, it is usually best to start with the more conservative methods first.
If you are experiencing any of these symptoms for any length of time please contact our office for a free health consultation to help you take steps to reduce back pain.
- Back Pain
- Brachial Plexus Injuries
- Cervical Radiculopathy
- Lumbar Radiculopathy
- Compression Fractures
- Degenerative Disc Disease (Cervical and Lumbar)
- Facet Joint Syndrome
- Failed Back or Neck Syndrome
- Herniated Disc
- Lower back pain
- Nerve Impingement
- Spinal Infection
- Spinal Canal Stenosis (Cervical and Lumbar)
- Spinal Cord Compression
- Spina Bifida
- Cervical Neck Pain
- Lumbar Back Pain
- Lumbar Disc Herniation
- Anterior Cervical Discectomy and Fusion (ACDF)
- Posterior Lumbar Interbody Fusion (PLIF)
- Anterior Lumbar Interbody Fusion (ALIF)
- Artificial Disc Replacement
- Endoscopic Spine Surgery
- Posterior Cervical Foraminotomy
- Micro Endoscopic Lumbar Discectomy
- Micro Endoscopic Cervical Discectomy
- Extreme Lateral Interbody Fusion (XLIF®)
- Interlaminar Lumbar Instrumented Fusion (ILIF™)
- Facet Joint Injections
- Pain Pumps
- Spinal Cord Implants
- MILD Procedure (Minimally Invasive Lumbar Decompression)
- Ultra Minimally Invasive Endoscopic Spinal Surgery