If you have already experienced back pain, you will not have much difficulty understanding how complex and challenging it is to manage. There are different types of back pain, and the treatment plan can vary based on your condition. The intensity of pain is likely to differ from person to person, and so are the pain management plans. For instance, a person can experience severe and unbearable pain due to a herniated disc. On the other hand, a sprain in the back muscles can cause mild to moderate pain. There are conditions when a person can experience excruciating pain in the back, which subsides within a few weeks or months.
Know The Spinal Anatomy
The spinal cord can be divided into three regions, namely, the cervical spine or the neck, the thoracic spine or the upper back, and the lumbar spine or the lower back. The upper back or the thoracic spine consists of twelve vertebral bodies in the upper back. It takes the form of a string cage for protecting the heart and lungs. The upper region of the back does not facilitate motion so that you can avoid wear and tear of this region. However, irritation on the upper back muscles or malfunction in the joints can also cause pain. Besides this, herniated discs in the thoracic region can also cause back pain.
The lower back or the lumbar spine, on the other hand, is responsible for motion and carries the weight of your body, which makes it susceptible to injuries. Different sections of the lumbar spine are prone to wear and tear. A majority of back pain occurs due to muscle strain. Even if strained muscles may sound similar to a severe injury, they can damage the tissues of the lower back, causing intense pain. However, the soft tissues have an adequate blood supply and provide nutrients to the affected area to minimize back pain.
The spinal column comprises thirty-three bones called vertebrae that are spread across five regions. The spine facilitates several movements, such as bending, twisting, and standing straight. If you have a healthy spine, you will have strong ligaments, tendons, and joints. Injury or disease of any of these parts can cause discomfort or pain. When you look at the spine from the side, three curves are replicating the shape of “S.” The curve functions as a shock absorber for the spine and protects from muscle strain and injuries. Here are the parts of the spine. Vertebrae, the spinal cord, nerves, facet joints, muscles, ligaments, tendons, and intervertebral discs are the different sections of the spine.
Your back becomes a victim of various forces, whether it is bad posture, a sudden jolt, or a twist. The structures of the spine that overlap or interconnect with each other can also suffer injury. Here are the typical reasons that cause back pain.
When the spinal nerves leave the spinal canal to go to other body parts or legs, the intervertebral discs that help in absorbing shock for the ones can also shift to cause back pain. Additionally, trouble in the large muscle supporting the spine. Facet joints connect the spine with the vertebrae can also sustain injury and back pain. Besides the common causes, issues in various anatomic structures, including ligaments, tendons, and bones, can lead to back pain.
Often, it is challenging for an individual to identify the exact cause of back pain, whether it is an injury of the spinal cord or other areas in the surrounding region. For instance, pain occurring due to a herniated disc may appear similar to the pain of arthritis. Similarly, compression of a nerve root or irritation in different structures, such as a bone spur or disc, becomes hard to distinguish.
Usually, a medical caregiver explores the case history of an individual and studies the symptoms thoroughly before locating the exact cause of back pain. MRI scans and X-rays are the primary causes of back pain. From the perspective of the patient, it is essential to describe the nature of the pain for correct diagnosis. Based on the description of the patient, you can categorize back pain in the following ways.
Axial Pain Vs. Referred Pain
In this condition, back pain can stay confined to a specific region or spot and is called a mechanical pain. The pain you experience can be severe or mild and keeps coming and going. One of the most prevalent causes of axial pain is strained muscles.
This pain can be mild or moderate, but nagging. Usually, referred pain can move from one region to another, and the achiness can come in various intensities. The degeneration of discs in the lower back can result in referred pain.
Lower Back Pain and Muscular Pain
Whether you strain your muscles while working out in the gym or move a heavy object, distress in the lower back can be annoying. People of different age groups can suffer from this pain. Once the doctor detects the nature of lower back pain, therapies, and medicines can help the pain go away. Read the following to understand the cause of lower back pain.
One of the most common symptoms you experience is not specific but intense pain in the muscles or on either side of the lower back. Various reasons can cause back pain, such as twisting, stretching, and lifting bulky goods. Moreover, any activity that causes stress on the lower back can result in pain. Sudden movement or an unexpected fall can also strain your lower back muscles and cause pain.
Radicular Pain Compared to Sciatic Pain
This is another typical low back pain that is due to degeneration of the disc, which is responsible for absorbing shocks on the back. Compression in the nerve roots can also cause radicular pain. It is different from muscle strain, causing back pain as you can experience sharp and excruciating pain on the back that can move to the legs. This is another type of back pain that affects the sciatic nerve running from the lower back region to the backside of each leg.
Daily Activities That Cause Back Pain Like Driving
There is a host of actions resulting in back pain, and one among them is holding heavy objects. However, there are plenty of daily activities that can result in pain in the lower and upper back. Here is the list of daily activities that can cause back pain.
The transport you take to reach your workplace can cause chronic pain on the back, especially if you travel to a distant location that takes more than an hour. Regular driving is one of the primary reasons you can sustain back pain due to bad posture. To eliminate strain on the lower back while driving, you need to keep your back straight while leaning against the seat. Often, drivers tend to sit in the center or lean forward and damage the lower back muscles extensively.
Sitting at Work and Sleeping Poorly
The sedentary lifestyle of today can be seen extensively from your home to the workplace. In every office, the employees spend more time at their desks. The more sedentary your lifestyle is, the higher risk you have of developing back pain.
Bad sleeping posture can also result in back pain. People sleeping on their abdomen can also experience lower back pain. Ideally, you have to lie down flat on your back when sleeping. However, if you are used to sleeping on your stomach, you can put a pillow therein to allow the muscles of the spine to stay balanced when you sleep.
Causes Of Back Pain – the Spine
There may be a multitude of reasons causing mild to severe back pain, but the doctor needs to know the reason for proper diagnosis. Here are a few ideas of which you should learn more.
Back pain can occur when your spinal muscles, joints, nerves, and discs have encumbrances, which disturb their normal functioning. For instance, the soft tissue present in the discs and between the joints can come out due to regular wear and tear. This condition is also known as herniated discs, which cause pain in the hip and lower back. Furthermore, the discs can also bulge and compress the roots of the nerve to cause pain. The discs on the spinal cord are known to absorb the shock between the vertebrae of your spine. This, in turn, can cause friction between the bones and degeneration between the discs.
More About Spine Problems
Swelling and degeneration of the sacroiliac joint, which lies between the spine and pelvis can also cause back pain. Even though this joint does not move frequently, it carries the load of the upper portion of the body to the lower part. Therefore, inflammation or wear and tear of the joint cartilage can occur after the injury due to pregnancy, infection, and arthritis.
Your spinal cord becomes narrow due to spinal stenosis, which creates pressure on your nerves and spine, which in turn can generate numbness around the shoulders and legs. When a bone in the spine moves forward or out of place, especially on the lower back, the condition is known as arthritis. It can cause back pain when a disc moves to the front over the vertebra.
Back Injuries And Accidents
Unexpected falls or sprains in the muscles, accidents, fractures, and strains are some of the other causes of back pain. Your spine can sustain injuries when you fall or hit your back. Besides this, conditions such as osteoporosis can also weaken your bones, resulting in back pain. Injuries in the ligaments, tendons, and muscles supporting the joints and spine are another cause of back pain, which can happen while lifting something or twisting at the same time.
Sports injuries or car accidents can cause back pain. You can also experience spasms when your tendons or muscles tear at the back. Weightlifting or sports can also cause back pain.
Lifestyle And Stress
Back pain can also result from daily activities such as lifting heavy objects, being overweight, a lack of exercise, smoking, and wearing high heels. Very few people know that stress can also result in muscle tension in the region surrounding the back. Moreover, anxiety and depression can worsen the pain.
Arthritis And Other Conditions
Arthritis not only causes swelling and stiffness in the joints but also contributes to back pain. Similarly, osteoarthritis is another condition triggering back pain in which the bones and cartilage break down. Curved spine or scoliosis is a congenital disability in which pain in the back can trigger back pain. Ankylosing spondylitis causes the ligaments and joints along the spine to become affected and is a factor causing pain in the back.
The muscles of the back can strain during pregnancy and cause back pain. Although it can happen, it is rare for a tumor to form on the back unless it is cancerous and spreads from other regions of your body. Some of the other rarer conditions that can trigger back pain are kidney stones, osteomyelitis, which is an infection of discs and bones, endometriosis, or fibromyalgia. Based on the exact cause of the pain, the doctor can recommend surgery, changes in lifestyle, and medication.
Genetic Reasons Behind Back Pain
If you are wondering whether genetic reasons can cause back pain, you need to delve inside to find out the causes. Therefore, if your family members suffer from back pain, it is only likely that a few other family members may have also been the victim of back pain. No one can tell for sure whether chronic pain the lower back has any relation with genes. Several studies report that there may be a relation between genetics and back pain.
There may be an amalgamation of factors contributing to back pain, of which the posture of an individual, occupation, and environment are a few. Today, scientists have demonstrated a close link between back pain and genetics. The connection between genes and back pain is primarily applied to degenerative discs of the lumbar region. According to research, people with diseases of the lumbar disc may have a family member suffering from similar conditions—the risk of lumbar diseases increases between distant and close relatives.
Here are a few things to know about genetics and back pain. The closest relationship is between back pain and a variant in the gene SOX5, a factor of transcription you will find in different stages of the development of the embryo. Previously, a connection has been reported between inactivated SOX5 and malfunction in the skeleton and cartilage when experimenting on mice. This variant may be one of the factors contributing to back pain due to its influence on different aspects of the development of the skeleton. However, the connection between SOX5 and back pain has also experimented on with individuals, many of whom were suffering from back pain.
CCDC26 and DCC
This gene is related to the herniation of the intervertebral discs, which causes back pain. This gene has a role to play in the development of the spinal cord, which shows an association between sensations of pain and mood, enhancing back pain. Research is still on to establish the association of genes with the degeneration of discs and back pain.
Other Back Disorders Include Degenerative Disc Disease
Besides pain, you may suffer from other back issues. Read the following points to understand the issues affecting back pain. Degenerative disc disease occurs when the changes that take place in your spine can cause pain. The spinal discs act as shock absorbers between the vertebrae, spine, and bones and maintain the flexibility of the spine to facilitate twisting and bending. However, the discs undergo wear and tear and can crack or break. Although breaking a disc is a common occurrence, you may not feel the pain. However, if there is pain, you are most likely to be suffering from degenerative disc disease.
When discs become thin due to water loss, the padding between the vertebrae also reduces, causing pain. Besides this, a small tear in the disc near the nerve can also cause pain.
Ankylosing spondylitis is a type of arthritis that causes the spine to become stiff. You may have a hunched back when you suffer from this problem. Even though there is no permanent cure for this condition, medicines and exercises can keep the situation under control. The disease begins in the sacroiliac joints and affects those regions where the ligaments and bones attach. Pain in the lower back is one of the symptoms of this condition.
Treatment For Back Pain — Medications
Different kinds of medicines called NSAIDs are available for the treatment of back pain. You can purchase them from the pharmacy. However, medications can only provide short-term relief from back pain and do not address the root cause. These drugs help in reducing pain and inflammation in the muscles and the regions surrounding the arthritic joints and spinal discs.
People often misuse the drugs, which can also expose them to other conditions, such as bleeding, stomach pain, and kidney damage. However, NSAIDs may not be the best form of medication for addressing back pain.
Muscle Relaxers, Opioids, and Antidepressants
Muscle relaxers act on the central nervous system, or CNS, for minimizing severe back pain temporarily and are recommended for muscle spasms. This medicine can make you drowsy, so you should be careful while using this medication.
When you suffer from severe back pain, you can resort to a category of drugs called opioids. These medicines can act on the receptor of nerve cells in the brain and body to minimize pain. This category of pain reliever can reduce pain but only temporarily. You should follow the prescription and medicine the doctor recommends for avoiding addiction. Doctors prescribe antidepressants to reduce the intensity of chronic low back pain even if there is no instance of depression in an individual.
Physical Therapy and Cognitive Behavioral Therapy or CBT
Application of ice, heat, and electrical stimulation, followed by techniques to relax the muscles of the back can help in easing the pain. Ultrasound therapy can also alleviate back pain. When the pain starts improving, the physiotherapist can also introduce strength and flexibility exercises for the muscles of the back and abdomen. The therapist also works with the patient to enhance the posture to reduce further pain. Every patient of back pain needs to continue the exercises long after the pain is gone.
In CBT therapy, the patient is encouraged to think through techniques of relaxation and a positive attitude towards pain. Studies indicate that patients undergoing CBT become more active and exercise regularly to get relief from back pain.
Injections, Traction, and Botox
When all the other options fail, the doctor can recommend injecting cortisone on the epidural space in the region surrounding the spinal cord. Cortisone helps in reducing inflammation around the roots of the nerve by numbing the areas that cause pain.
For stretching the back muscles, weights and pulleys can be used, which restores the original position of herniated discs. The pain can also be reduced after the application of traction. Botox is known to ease pain by numbing a muscle spasm, and the injections stay valid for about three to four months.
Natural Remedies For Back Pain like Sipping Anti-Inflammatory Drinks
There are a few natural remedies that can help you ease back pain and reduce medications or add to other forms of therapies and treatment plans. Consuming anti-inflammatory drinks and food items can also reduce back pain. Turmeric includes anti-inflammatory and anti-arthritic components, which can help in reducing pain and inflammation. One of the quickest methods to consume a drink containing turmeric is mixing a small amount of this spice in a glass of warm milk to which you can add honey to improve the taste. Take this drink before bedtime to reduce the chances of inflammation.
Similarly, cherry juice contains antioxidants along with anti-inflammatory properties to minimize back pain. Try drinking a glass of this juice to get relief from back pain. Ginger green tea also contains pain relievers, and you can get it from the nearby grocery store. If you consume these drinks over a period, you will allow the anti-inflammatory agents to accumulate in the bloodstream.
Avoid The Same Posture while Sitting or Sleeping
You should avoid sitting or standing in the same posture for a prolonged period. For instance, when you sit on your desk for a long time, you will create more pressure on the spinal discs. Therefore, you should go on walking for a short distance within an hour to reduce the pressure. Besides this, you need to check your posture as well to avoid stressing the spine. You can alternate the tasks to avoid causing stress and fatigue to the same set of muscles over and over again.
If you sleep properly at night, you can avoid straining the back muscles a lot more than usual. Sleeping longer also allows the back muscles to heal correctly and will enable you to stay refreshed throughout the day.
Meditation and Yoga
Meditation not only reduces stress but facilitates the release of hormones called endorphins to reduce anxiety and change your perception of feeling. You can practice meditation every day in the morning or before going to bed.
Yoga is highly effective for stretching the back muscles and joints and facilitates the division of nutrients that create a healing effect through the circulation of blood. It can also make your spine more flexible. However, do not practice all the yoga techniques you know at the same time. Instead, start gradually until you experience comfort from pain.
Using A Heat Patch or Immersing Yourself In A Warm Pool
You can apply heat patches over the area of the pain to get relief and carry them during long drives. They are practical and comfortable to wear inside the outfit to get an uninterrupted supply of heat over the region of pain. However, you should not use them for long hours to avoid causing damage to the skin.
You can try water therapy and hydrotherapy pools that aid the functioning of muscles and nerves of the back region, minimizing pain. Another option for you is to take supplements of Vitamin D3 after consulting with your doctor as it aids the functioning of neuro muscles, the immune system, and the spine. Your body can absorb more calcium once you start taking this supplement and strengthen your bones.
Healthcare Providers For Back Pain
There are three categories of healthcare providers working to ease back pain. Primary caregivers provide initial treatment to patients suffering from back pain. Generally, people consult with family physicians, gynecologists, pediatricians, interns, and obstetricians when pain occurs for the first time. Besides this, people also consult with doctors of osteopathic medicine and chiropractors. The second category of doctors is spine specialists with the expertise of treating back pain and providing rehabilitation for chronic back pain. You can talk to surgeons of the spine, neurologists, rheumatologists, psychiatrists, anesthesiologists, and physiatrists for help.
The final category of specialists includes those who provide occupational or physical rehabilitation to manage back pain. They also offer psychological counseling for changing your attitude towards perceiving back pain. The physical therapists, clinical psychologists, and occupational therapists provide help to people suffering from back pain.
Therapies For Back Pain
Among the complementary therapies used for treating back pain is shiatsu massage, which is a finger pressure therapy that is applied across the energy lines. The therapist applies pressure with a thumb, fingers, and elbow. Acupuncture is another ancient Chinese technique that includes the insertion of fine needles on different points of the body, which release endorphins that kill the pain and stimulate the nerve and muscle tissues.
TENS or transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation is another therapy that eases chronic back pain. The machine administers small electric pulses through electrodes that are positioned on the skin. According to experts, it stops the pain signals and stimulates the release of endorphins.
Chiropractic treatment is a non-surgical therapy that is used for the treatment of nervous and musculoskeletal systems. The core treatment technique focuses on the manipulation of the spinal cord and provides relief to the surrounding regions as well. Research suggests that the manual treatment techniques of chiropractors are useful for getting relief from back pain. The manipulation of the spine involves a short lever thrust of the arm in high velocity on the affected vertebrae to make the region more functional and reduce irritation of the nerves. On the other hand, mobilization refers to manipulation in low speed allowing stretching of joints and muscles, which in turn increases the mobility of the area.
The manipulation of the spine in chiropractic care is safe and effective for the treatment of lower back pain. Furthermore, it is also useful for the treatment of those injuries you incur while moving heavy objects. Typically, back pain should ease within six weeks with chiropractic care.
Say Goodbye to Back Pain
Many people overlook back pain and the symptoms surrounding it for a long time until they decide to seek treatment. Allowing back discomfort to persist makes it acute, and diagnosis is challenging for healthcare providers. Just like other health conditions, you should start a safe and effective treatment for back pain early to prevent it from becoming acute.
If back pain continues to interrupt your daily work and interferes with the quality of life, you can start using the natural remedies and follow them with appropriate medication. From the application of cold and hot therapy to the newest approaches of treatment, there are a plethora of options that help in easing back pain. You can discuss your problems and the intensity of pain, along with triggering factors with the doctor to facilitate appropriate treatment. The doctor will assess the exact source of the pain through various methods before administering the right medication, therapy, or treatment.