When you have back pain, the goals of treatment are to make you feel better and your treatment options will depend on where your pain is and factors like whether it’s acute, sharp and sudden, caused by something specific or chronic etc…
Back pain sends more patients to doctors than any condition other than the common cold, as gravity is always pulling down, making our back work to keep us balanced front to back.
Back pain is the fifth most common reason for hospitalizations and third most common cause of surgery.
The spinal column protects the spinal cord, which is a long bundle of nerves that allows the brain to communicate with the rest of the body.
There are a number of ways the bones, muscles, ligaments, and disks in the spine can irritate or injure the nerves, and there are many possible causes of back pain. Back pain is often several situations combining to create pain, and some seemingly insignificant everyday habits can take a big toll on your back over time.
Symptoms Of Back Pain
There are several different symptoms that encompass back pain, and some of the most common symptoms include:
- dull pain
- muscle aches
- a burning sensation
- sharp or stabbing pain
- muscle tightness or stiffness
- tingling or numbness in the legs, arms, or chest
- chest pain
- weakness in the legs or arms
- loss of bladder control
Causes of Back Pain
Repeated pressure on the spine can lead to back pain, and the muscles and ligaments in your back have to work hard to keep you balanced when you slouch. Overworking these muscles can lead to aches and back pain.
Weight and lower back pain showed a positive correlation, and when weight increases, so do the risk of back pain.
Muscle sprain or strain:
Sprains are the tearing or stretching of ligaments, while strains are the tearing or stretching of muscles and tendons. Regularly lifting heavy objects, especially without proper form, or an awkward, sudden movement can easily cause a person to sprain or strain their back.
Fall or other injuries:
It’s possible to injure the back from injuries as the result of a hard fall like down the stairs, car accident, blunt force trauma or sports accident. A spine injury can happen to anyone, but older people are at a higher risk, and if you experience back pain after such an incident, contact your doctor immediately.
A herniated disk or ruptured disks occurs when the inner, gel-like core of a disk in your back pushes against the outer ring of cartilage, putting pressure on a nerve, which can result in pain, tingling, or numbness in the middle back and in areas where the affected nerve travels.
Osteoarthritis is a degenerative joint disease that occurs when the cartilage covering your joints breaks down, causing bones to rub together. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), it’s a leading cause of disability in adult Americans.
The older a person is, the more likely they are to experience back pain, because, the aging process naturally wears on the body, including thinning bones, reduction in muscle mass, and a reduction of fluid between joints in the spine, which can all cause back pain.
Vertebrae fractures often occur following trauma, such as a fall, or accident, or sports injury and can cause severe middle back pain that gets worse if you move. Fractures or bone breaks can be very serious injuries, and often require immediate treatment, which may include wearing a brace, going to physical therapy, and possibly surgery.
- The basic way to relieve a strain or minor injury is to take it easy for a while, use an ice pack and an over-the-counter pain reliever such as aspirin or ibuprofen. Afterward, a heating pad or pack can help soothe muscles and connective tissue. This is one of the most common methods that can provide immediate relief.
- If you have chronic back pain, it is recommended that you sleep on a medium-firm mattress.
- Address your posture, because slouching puts stress on your back. Avoid slouching; keep your shoulders back when standing, take standing breaks if you sit for long periods of time, and if you have a desk job, adjusting your chair and computer monitor height, keyboard, and mouse positioning can all enable good posture.
- Stretch and strengthen the back muscles by doing exercises such as yoga.
Other Treatment Methods
Much Bed rest may do more harm than good, as it could slow your recovery and cause new problems.
Strengthening both your abdominal and back muscles help stabilize your spine, and Pilates exercises help build these core muscles. You can help prevent further back injury by learning and performing gentle stretching exercises.
Furthermore, exercising in the water is especially safe for a sore back, as the water supports some of your weight, which can make you more comfortable, and it offers gentle resistance, which builds your strength.
Yoga may help your flexibility, strength, and sense of balance and it is good for stress relief, which will also help you deal with the pain.
Physical therapy uses a tailored exercise program along with a variety of techniques like Massage, Heat, Ultrasound, and Whirlpool baths
Depending on the severity of pain, your doctor may prescribe stronger pain medicines or muscle relaxants. However, you have to be careful, as some of these prescription medicines can make you drowsy. You could also become dependent on these medications, especially medications with opioids in them.
The antidepressant duloxetine (Cymbalta) may help with arthritis and chronic lower back pain, and doctors sometimes prescribe antidepressants and anticonvulsants for pain related to irritated nerves.
Chiropractic and Osteopathic
Spinal manipulation can work for acute back pain, but it may not be as effective for chronic back pain, and getting chiropractic adjustments soon after you’ve hurt your back may prevent chronic problems later.
Osteopathic practitioners often combine drug therapy with spinal manipulation or traction, followed by physical therapy and exercise.
Acupuncture may bring relief for people with chronic low back pain, and gently placing thin, dry needles into your skin at specific points may trigger the release of endorphins, which is the body’s natural painkiller. It may also change your brain chemistry so you have a higher pain tolerance.
This is a treatment that is intended for long-standing back pain and nerve damage. The use of Radiofrequency ablation electrically stimulates specific nerves to make them less sensitive to pain, and can also zap the nerve to destroy it and prevent further pain.
TENS (transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation) may help block pain signals or trigger your body to make endorphins. These are usually small battery-powered devices that send a signal through electrodes taped to your skin to give you a tingling feeling.
Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) can often lessen back pain, change how you think about your levels of pain, and help lift depression. If your lower back pain is related to muscle tension or spasm, biofeedback can help you train your muscles to respond better to stress and movement, helping to lessen the pain intensity and the need for drugs.
For most chronic back pain, surgery is usually the last resort. You may need surgery when you have a herniated disk or a pinched nerve from the spinal cord.
Rhizotomy is surgically cutting a nerve to stop it from sending pain signals to your brain. The surgery can fix the symptoms caused by extremely damaged nerves and rubbing surfaces in a spinal joint.