Back pain is the most common complaint in the United States. The pain can range from a dull, constant ache to a sudden, sharp pain. Sudden pain is usually due to an accident, a fall, or lifting something heavy. It may develop slowly from degenerative changes that come with aging. The treatment varies depending on the cause and the symptoms. There are however steps you can take to lower your chances of developing long-lasting back pain.
About the Spine
There are 4 areas or regions in the spin: cervical, thoracic, lumbar and sacrum & coccyx. These areas include the vertebrae, spinal cord, discs, ligaments, tendons, and muscles. Vertebrae are the bones of the spine. Spinal cord is a long bundle of nerves that run through the spine. Discs are the cushion-like pads between the vertebrae. Ligaments are short, strong bands of flexible tissue that hold the bones in place. Tendons are a cord of tissue that connects the muscles to the bone. And finally, muscles are the fibers that support your spine and upper body which help you to move.
Who’s at Risk for Back Pain?
- Back pain is more common among people who are not physically fit. It is also more likely if you exercise too strenuously after having been inactive for a while.
- A diet high in calories and fat, combined with an inactive lifestyle leads to obesity. The weight puts stress on the spine.
- Jobs that require heavy lifting, pushing, pulling, or twisting can cause back injury. Sitting at a desk can also cause back pain if you have poor posture or an uncomfortable chair.
- Back pain becomes more common with age, especially after 45.
- Genetics also play a role in some disorders that may lead to back pain.
Symptoms of Back Pain
Back pain can range from a specific spot (local) or it can be spread out around the back (generalized). The pain can radiate or move away from the back to other areas. These areas include the buttocks, legs, and abdomen. Intensity of the pain varies between people depending on the location, cause, and type of pain. You may experience increasing pain with lifting and bending. Or, worsening pain with resting, sitting or standing. The back pain may come and go. You may experience stiffness in the morning that lessens with activity. Pain may radiate away from the back as previously mentioned.
When to See a Provider
- Numbness and tingling
- Severe pain that does not improve with over-the-counter (OTC) pain medication.
- Back pain following a fall or trauma (such as car accident).
- Back pain with trouble urinating, weakness, pain, or numbness in your legs.
- Unintentional weight loss
Conditions That can Cause Back Pain
Some conditions that can cause back pain include sprain, strain, degenerative disc disease, herniated or ruptured disc, spondylolisthesis, spinal stenosis, fracture, inflammatory conditions such as ankylosing spondylitis, osteoporosis, fibromyalgia, kidney stones or infections, endometriosis, infections, tumors and pregnancy.
How to Treat Back Pain
In addition to seeing a provider for the before mentioned reasons, you can take OTC pain relievers by mouth or patches for the skin (Salonpas, Biofreeze). For some types of chronic back pain, you may be prescribed a muscle relaxer. If nerve compression is a concern, you may be referred for injections.
You should however always apply ice packs for the first 72 hours and then after alternate between ice and heat. Avoid bedrest, but limit activities or exercises that cause pain. Gradually increase activity as tolerated. If you have no improvement, and do not have a reason to see a provider immediately (such as trauma loss of bowel or bladder) you may be referred to physical therapy. Physical therapy helps you to strengthen the muscles that support and strengthen you back. You will improve mobility, posture, and positioning.
Here at Show Low Family Clinic, we can help you with your back pain. Call us at 541-315-8338. Feel free to ask questions below. You may also visit our website or Facebook. Get back to living your best life.