Back pain management

Back pain is one of the most common complaints for working adults in the US. Fortunately, it’s not a serious problem and often a simple strain on the ligament or muscle. While true, it can prevent you from enjoying life to the fullest. You should consult with a specialist to diagnose the cause of your back pain and determine the best treatment option.

The health professionals at Eastshore Healthcare are experienced in handling a myriad of body pain. With a blend of medical technology and physical practices, we craft personalized pain management plans to deliver lasting results.

The back stretches from the neck to the buttocks and is integral to our daily movements and posture. At its core is the spine, which is both strong and flexible, enabling us to twist, turn, bend, and lift. It consists of the spinal or vertebral column, which comprises 33 hollow, ring-shaped bones known as vertebrae.

23 discs of spongy cartilage cushion these. The vertebrae are categorized into the cervical spine in the neck with 7 vertebrae, the thoracic spine in the chest with 12 vertebrae, the lumbar spine in the lower back with 5 vertebrae, and the sacrum and coccyx, or tailbone, which are made up of several fused vertebrae.

Inside the vertebral column is the spinal cord, a bundle of nerve fibers responsible for transmitting signals between the brain and the rest of the body. The ligaments, discs, and joints in the spine age as we age. While they remain strong throughout the years, it’s usual for the back to get stiffer.

Back pain is broadly categorized into chronic back pain and acute back pain. The difference between these types is the duration of pain. You can experience pain in any area in your back, but lower back pain is the most common.

  • Acute: Acute back pain is pain that persists for less than six weeks. Generally, sudden back pain is considered acute back pain. Often, it heals naturally on its own. Lower back pain after a hard workout at the gym can take about a week to heal.
  • Chronic: Chronic back pain can persist for more than six weeks. You might be unaware of the cause as it might develop slowly over a few weeks. Usually, chronic pain requires treatment to heal.

Aside from burning, stabbing, or shooting pain in your back (sometimes radiating to your feet), other back pain symptoms include:

  • Muscle spasms – when you experience a strain, the muscle in your lower back might spasm uncontrollably. These spasms will cause pain, making it difficult to move, walk, or stand.
  • Stiffness – you might have a hard time straightening or moving your back. Standing up from a seat might be painful, and you may need to stretch or walk. You might also notice a reduced range of motion.

Back pain can arise from many factors, ranging from physical injuries to underlying diseases. Here are some of the primary causes of back pain:

  • Sprains and strains: The most common culprits of back pain are strains and sprains. These can occur from lifting objects improperly, lifting too heavy objects, sudden movements, or even actions as simple as sneezing or coughing.
  • Fractures: Accidents, such as falls or car crashes, can lead to broken bones in the spine. Conditions like osteoporosis can also increase the risk of fractures.
  • Disk problems: The disks, which cushion the vertebrae, can bulge or rupture, pressing on a nerve. Aging can also cause these disks to degenerate, reducing their cushioning ability.
  • Arthritis: Osteoarthritis is a common cause of low-back pain. Another form, ankylosing spondylitis, leads to pain, stiffness, and inflammation in the spine.
  • Structural problems: Spinal stenosis, where the spinal column narrows, can compress your spinal cord, leading to pain. Scoliosis, or curvature of the spine, can also cause discomfort.
  • Posture problems: you might stand bent or crooked with your torso to the side.
  • Disease: Tumors in the spine, infections, and other conditions like kidney stones or abdominal aortic aneurysms can result in back pain.
  • Spondylolisthesis: This condition occurs when the vertebrae slip out of place, leading to pain in the lower back and in the legs.
  • Lifestyle and occupation: Jobs or activities that involve heavy lifting, bending, or twisting can increase the risk of back injuries. Sedentary lifestyles, excessive alcohol consumption, and smoking can also elevate the risk.
  • Mental health: Psychological factors, including depression and anxiety, can manifest as back pain.

Several factors can increase the likelihood of developing back pain. While some of these are unavoidable, understanding them can help manage and prevent the onset of pain. Here are the primary risk factors for back pain:

  • Age: As we age, we become more susceptible to back pain. This is often due to natural wear and tear, such as degeneration of the spinal discs.
  • Weight: Carrying excess weight, especially around the midsection, places additional strain on the back muscles and spinal structures. This can lead to pain and other back-related issues.
  • Physical fitness: Weak abdominal and back muscles may not adequately support the spine, leading to strains and sprains. Excessive or improper exercise can also result in acute pain.
  • Genetics: Some causes of back pain, like certain types of arthritis or disc disorders, may have a genetic component.
  • Posture: Poor posture, whether standing or sitting, can lead to back pain over time. Slouching, hunching over devices, or standing with a protruding belly can strain the back.
  • Lifestyle choices: Smoking, excessive alcohol consumption, and a sedentary lifestyle can increase the risk of back pain. Smoking, in particular, can reduce blood flow to the spine, hampering the body’s ability to deliver nutrients to the discs.
  • Previous injuries: Having had back pain or back injuries in the past can increase the likelihood of future episodes.

Back pain treatment varies based on its cause, severity, and overall health.

  • Home remedies: Back pain improves with home treatment for many, especially those under 60. Cold and heat applications can alleviate pain. Bed rest is not typically recommended, and you are encouraged to continue light activities like walking.
  • Medications: Different medications might be prescribed depending on the type and cause of back pain. These can range from over-the-counter pain relievers like ibuprofen or naproxen sodium to muscle relaxants, topical pain relievers, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, and certain antidepressants that have shown efficacy in pain relief.
  • Physical therapy: Physical therapists can guide you through exercises to strengthen the back, improve flexibility, and correct posture. They also provide education on movement modifications to prevent pain flare-ups.
  • Injections: For pain radiating down the leg, cortisone injections and numbing medication can be administered around the spinal cord and nerve roots. This treatment reduces inflammation but typically offers temporary relief.
  • Alternative therapies: You can find relief through alternative treatments like chiropractic care, acupuncture, Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS), massage therapy, and yoga.
  • Surgical and other procedures: In cases where pain is persistent and debilitating, surgical interventions might be considered. Options include radiofrequency ablation, implanted nerve stimulators, and surgery to address conditions like herniated disks or spinal stenosis.

Back pain, while common, should never be dismissed or overlooked. Its causes, risk factors, and treatments are diverse, and understanding them is the first step toward effective management and relief.

At Eastshore Healthcare, we have pain management specialists who prioritize individualized care, ensuring you receive a tailored approach that addresses your unique needs. If you or a loved one is grappling with back pain, don’t hesitate to contact Eastshore Healthcare today at (717)652-5550 and journey towards a pain-free life.