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Back pain can affect individuals of all ages due to injury, tension, and medical conditions. It can occur in the lower back or the upper back. Lower back pain may be linked to the bony lumbar spine, discs problems, ligaments around the spine and discs, spinal cord and nerves, lower back muscles, abdominal and pelvic internal organs, and the skin around the lumbar area. Upper back pain may be linked to disorders of the aorta, chest tumors, and spine inflammation.
There are two types of back pain: Acute – short-term back pain that lasts a few days to a few weeks and tends to resolve on its own with self-care; Chronic – long-term pain (12 weeks or more). Structural problems can cause back pain e.g. Ruptured disks – disks cushion each vertebra in the spine, and rupturing results in increased pressure on a nerve, resulting in back pain; Bulging disk; Sciatica – sharp and shooting pain that flows from the buttock to the back of the leg, caused by a bulging or herniated disk pressing on a nerve; Arthritis; Abnormal curvature of the spine; Osteoporosis; Kidney stones. Everyday activities that contribute to back pain include poor lifting form, lifting or pushing heavy objects, bending awkwardly or for long periods, poor posture, straining the neck forward, sleeping on a mattress that has little to no back support, strained muscles or ligaments, fractures and falls.
Further, some medical conditions can cause back pain e.g. Cauda equina syndrome – causes dull pain in the lower back and upper buttocks; Spine Cancer; Spine Infection; Pelvic Inflammatory Disease; and Shingles. Risk factors associated with back pain are occupation, pregnancy, sedentary lifestyle, obesity and excess weight, genetics, smoking, older age and poor physical fitness. Back pain is typically diagnosed via Bone scans, Discography, Electro-diagnostics, Computerized tomography (CT) scan, Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan, x-rays, and Myelograms. Treatment options are medications e.g. analgesics such as acetaminophen and aspirin, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), muscle relaxants, topical pain relief such as creams, gels, patches, or sprays; heat and/or ice. Surgical treatments include Vertebroplasty; Spinal laminectomy; Discectomy and microdiscectomy; Nucleoplasty; Spinal fusion; Artificial disc replacement; Interspinous spacers; Implanted nerve stimulators; Spinal cord stimulation; Peripheral nerve stimulation. The health providers who treat back pain are primary care providers, spine specialists and Physical or Occupational Rehabilitation Therapists.