Back Pain: 5 Things to Know
Back pain can be debilitating and disabling. Millions of Americans have a problem with back pain. It’s the leading cause of disability in people younger than 45 years of age. If you have back pain, then there are some important things to know about it. This way, you can address it and find the appropriate treatment for it.
The following are five things that you need to know about back pain:
What Causes Back Pain?
Back pain can have many causes. Some of these causes are the following:
- Herniated or slipped discs – These occur if the soft tissue in the discs between your joints has come out. It is many times caused by wear and tear. Herniated discs may cause pain in your lower back or hip.
- Bulging discs – In this condition, the discs protrude. You may only feel it if it pushes on a nerve root.
- Degenerative disc disease – In this condition, the discs shrink or tear. This results in the bones rubbing together. This many times occurs with age.
- Inflammation and wear of the sacroiliac joint – This is located where your spine and pelvis come together. The cartilage in the joint can swell and wear away.
- Spinal stenosis – If you have this condition, then your spinal canal has gotten narrower. This puts pressure on your spine and nerves. This can cause your legs and shoulders to feel numb.
- Cervical radiculopathy – This is a pinched nerve. It usually occurs because of a bone spur or a herniated disc.
- Spondylolisthesis – This happens when a bone in the spine slips out of place. Most typically, this will happen in the lower back.
- Accidents – Accidents of various kinds can also result in back pain.
The following can bring on back pain:
- Slouching at your desk
- Lifting heavy objects
- Excess weight
- Lack of exercise
- Wearing high heels
Back pain can be brought on by stress, and depression and anxiety may exacerbate it.
Finally, certain medical conditions can bring on back pain. They include:
- Ankylosing spondylitis
Most Common Symptoms of Back Pain
Although there are many causes of back pain, they often share the same symptoms. These symptoms can include:
- Persistent aching or stiffness along your spine. This may occur anywhere from the base of the neck to the tail bone.
- Sharp pain in the neck, upper back, or lower back
- Chronic ache in the middle or lower back. This is particularly the case after sitting or standing for a long time.
- Back pain that radiates from the low back to the buttock, down the back of the thigh, and into the calf and toes.
- Inability to stand straight without having pain in the lower back
The following are risk factors that put you at greater risk for developing back pain:
- Age – Back pain more commonly strikes those who are older. This can start around the age of 30 or 40.
- Lack of exercise – If you don’t work out the muscles in your back, then this might lead to back pain.
- Excess weight – Too much excess weight puts a strain on your back.
- Diseases – Certain kinds of arthritis and cancer can result in back pain.
- Lifting – If you use your back instead of your legs to lift, then this can result in back pain.
- Psychological ailments – People who have issues with depression and anxiety are more likely to develop back pain.
- Smoking – Smoking can prevent your body from getting enough nutrients to the discs in your back.
Treatments for Back Pain
The main treatment for relieving back pain is to modify your activities. Putting ice on the area may help, and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs can reduce the pain and inflammation. After the inflammation goes away, the application of heat to the area can be helpful.
Physical therapy may also be helpful. Physical therapy can include massage, ultrasound, and exercises to strengthen the muscles in the back.
For chronic back pain, pain modifying medications such as Cymbalta might be helpful. If your doctor is not able to relieve your back pain, then he or she may refer you to a back specialist. This doctor may give you injections of steroids or anesthetics into the back to control the pain. Surgery may be necessary when there is a herniated disc or pinching of the nerve from the spinal cord. Purchasing a medium-firm mattress may also be helpful for chronic back pain.
Patients who have long-standing back pain and nerve damage may be relieved of pain through newer treatments. One of these treatments is radiofrequency ablation. In this treatment, electrical stimulation is delivered to specific nerves to make them less sensitive to pain. Sometimes, enough electricity is administered to actually destroy the nerve. Research into this procedure is still ongoing.
If you have persistent pain from nerve damage, then a surgeon may need to sever a nerve. This is called rhizotomy.
There is also chiropractic treatment for back pain problems. Chiropractors manipulate the parts of the back to relieve pain. Acupuncture may also bring relief to many people. It can be used alone or as part of a complete treatment plan that includes medication and other therapies.
There are certain measures that you can take to alter your lifestyle to relieve back pain:
- Exercise – It is important to condition the muscles in your back. This will help relieve your back pain.
- Eat right – Eating well will not only help you maintain a healthy weight, but also it can maintain the general health of your back.
- Sleep sideways – The best position for sleeping is on your side.
- Maintain proper posture
- Reduce stress – Stress can put pressure on your back.
- Quit smoking – It is not known how this affects back problems, but it is known that it does.
Although back pain can be debilitating, if you understand the causes of the pain, then there are treatments and lifestyle changes that can help out. You should always consult with your physician and a specialist to figure out what the problem is and the best way to treat it.