What Are the Causes of Back Pain?
Back pain is fairly common among adults and the causes can vary widely. Some of the most common causes of back pain include:
- Muscle strain – Also referred to as overuse, or general strain, this is one of the most common causes of back pain. Muscle strains are usually caused by lifting heavy or bulky objects and sudden movements, which cause pain and stiffness in the affected area.
- Herniated disc – Also referred to as a “slipped disc”, this condition refers to when the soft tissue between vertebrae of the spine bulges or ruptures, which puts pressure on nerve endings and can cause intense pain.
- Spinal stenosis – This condition occurs when the spinal canal narrows, which puts excessive pressure on nerves and results in pain, numbness, or weakness of the back, legs, and/or arms.
- Osteoarthritis – As a degenerative joint disease, osteoarthritis can cause pain, stiffness, and limited mobility, and generally requires ongoing treatment measures.
- Scoliosis – This is a condition that causes the spine to curve to one side or the other, which, if left untreated, can cause intense pain and discomfort in the back.
- Poor posture – Many people might think posture only matters during waking hours, but your sleep posture can also affect your level of back pain. Try to improve your posture when you notice yourself slouching, and take extra care to ensure that your sleeping posture does not put undue stress on your spine or other body parts.
Individuals must also be cognizant of the fact that back pain can also be caused by other factors like infections, tumors, or kidney stones, and can occur as a result of multiple causes. If your back pain is disrupting your normal daily activities, or if it is accompanied by other worrying symptoms, it may be time to schedule an appointment with your doctor.
Lower Back Pain Treatments
Depending upon your exact symptoms and medical history, it’s likely that your doctor will know how to best treat your back pain. Here are a few examples of some of the most common treatments for back pain:
- Physical therapy – Also known by its acronym, PT, this process involves exercising and stretching various muscles to improve strength, flexibility, and mobility of the back and other muscles.
- Medication – Some over-the-counter products like ibuprofen or acetaminophen can help with less severe back pain. However, stronger prescription medication can be helpful for individuals suffering from more severe pain.
- Hot and cold therapy – This process involves applying heat and/or cold to the affected area to help reduce pain and inflammation.
- Massage therapy – This type of therapy can help reduce muscle tension and improve blood flow to the back.
- Surgery – Often reserved for the most severe cases, or when patients do not respond to other treatment methods, surgery allows doctors to go in and address the problem directly.
When Should You See a Back Pain Doctor?
Because back pain can be such a common experience, it’s often difficult to know when it’s appropriate to schedule an appointment with a medical professional. It also depends on your individual pain threshold and what you might consider a “normal” amount of discomfort as a result of poor posture, prolonged sitting, or lack of stretching and exercise.
Generally speaking, if the pain is consistent – especially if it is intense and inhibits you from completing normal, daily activities (like dressing, standing, or sitting) – for an extended period of time, you will likely want to schedule an appointment with your primary care physician. If, however, your pain is severe, it might be best to visit an urgent care facility or emergency room.
Back pain may also be accompanied by other symptoms which can provide medical professionals with additional context and help them understand the source of your pain. Consult with your doctor if your back pain is accompanied by difficulty urinating, excessive fatigue or weakness, numbness in the legs, fever, or unintentional or drastic weight loss.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can regular exercise help reduce back pain?
For people who regularly experience mild back pain, exercising regularly and stretching can provide numerous benefits that help to alleviate back pain.
Can back pain be genetically inherited?
Some evidence suggests that certain causes of back pain may be inherited genetically, but generally speaking, back pain is more likely related to another cause. More research is needed, however, to determine when genetics plays a role in a person’s back pain.
Will surgery help alleviate my back pain?
Because there are so many variables and different factors that can contribute to back pain, it’s best to leave these kinds of decisions to you and your primary care physician. Surgery is often reserved as a last resort when other, less invasive treatment methods prove to be ineffective at treating the underlying cause.
Contact Us for Back Pain Treatment
Back pain is a fairly common condition that can significantly affect a person’s quality of life. Thankfully, there are numerous treatment options available to alleviate pain and allow damaged tissues to heal. If you are experiencing back pain, especially for long periods of time, consider consulting your primary care physician to determine how best to proceed.
Carolina’s Pain Center offers a variety of non-surgical treatments to help people manage their back pain and improve the quality of their lives. Contact us today to schedule an appointment and take your first steps toward eliminating your back pain.