Back pain affects about 80 percent of Americans throughout their lifetime. One in five people affected by acute back pain will develop chronic back pain with persistent symptoms. It’s a very serious issue and one of the most common forms of chronic pain. Not all back pain becomes chronic – but when it does, seeking help from an expert is vital. This is why you need to consult pain and spine specialists.
How Does Back Pain Occur?
The answer isn’t very straightforward. Many factors affect both acute and chronic back pain. Excessive manual labor, work-related injuries, and a sedentary lifestyle can contribute to back pain. Obesity is a common risk factor, but a healthy body weight doesn’t necessarily save you from a strained back.
Diet and age both play important roles. Exercising too hard after not exercising much at all can easily cause strain. Genes also matter- some people commonly experience back issues more than others. Aside from risk factors and injuries, diseases can also cause back pain. Osteoporosis, arthritis, and cancer are common causes of chronic back pain.
The most common area for back pain is the lower back. The lower back encompasses the back area from the waist to the bottom of the ribcage. It’s the portion most people bend to pick something up. Lower back pain may be more prevalent than upper back pain because the lower back:
- It isn’t as stable or well-protected as the upper back, anatomically.
- Is at greater risk of shearing forces when bending over incorrectly, especially when lifting something.
- It also tends to do a lot more twisting and bending than the rest of the spine in general, which puts a lot more stress on the discs and vertebrae of your lower back.
Most lower back pain can be attributed to a strained muscle or a spinal issue. When it’s a strained muscle, you will usually feel soreness and pain throughout the area, occasionally with some bruising, followed by stiffness. Lower spine issues, on the other hand, may be accompanied by:
- Sharp or burning pain on one side;
- Pain in the legs;
- Sudden weakness in one leg;
- Tingling in the legs and feet.
When to Consult Pain and Spine Specialists
Regardless of whether your pain began as a spinal, neural, or muscular issue, any acute pain at risk of becoming chronic should be looked at by a professional. Consider getting in touch with back pain and spine specialists if:
- Your pain has been getting worse. A surefire way to determine that you need help is if the pain worsens. Most examples of back pain recede and heal in a matter of weeks – worsening pain is a sign of something bad. It could be a pinched nerve, an inflammatory response, growth, or anything else.
- You feel numb sometimes. Numbness is a common sign of nerve compression. Spondylolisthesis, spinal stenosis, and disc herniation are a few common ways your back pain might tie into numb legs or arms.
- You’re having trouble moving. Lack of mobility, whether due to loss of strength or balance, may indicate a spinal problem, especially if it ties into your back pain.
- You’re experiencing bowel and bladder issues. See a professional immediately. Bowel or bladder issues after a back injury can signify significant nerve problems.
- You’ve had a stiff neck for some time. If your neck is continuously stiff and tight, and it’s getting harder to move it without pain, you should see a professional immediately. Damage to the spine can affect the nerves and muscles around the neck and head.
- It’s harder to do the little things. If you’re having trouble tying your shoelaces, typing, or completing tasks that require moderate dexterity and are usually easy, you may have an upper back problem.
Reducing Pain Until Your Appointment
Suppose your pain is progressing, and you haven’t gotten an appointment with a professional. In that case, you may consider an urgent care clinic or an ER if your symptoms include fever, loss of feeling, bowel or bladder control, or severe pain. However, if the pain is tolerable, there are a few things you can do to help minimize it for now. Depending on what kind of pain you’re experiencing, you may find success through:
- The R.I.C.E. method. This involves rest, ice, compression, and elevation. Ice packs, stacking pillows, and wrapping the affected area can reduce pain considerably.
- Utilize pillows to improve your sleep and resting posture and reduce strain on the back. If you lay on your side, place a pillow between your knees and rest in a fetal position. If you lay on your back, use a pillow under your knees and thighs to gently elevate your legs. Do not lay on your belly.
- Quit smoking and drinking until your appointment or as soon as possible. Alcohol and nicotine can greatly affect back pain, and smoking, in particular, significantly affects bone health and pain.
- If you work in an office or at home, consider an investment in an ergonomic office chair. Recheck and reset the height on your work surfaces to reduce strain on the back. You should be relaxed and comfortable while you work.
- Take a break from sitting every half hour or so.
- Avoid any heavy lifting.
- Exercise, but keep it moderate, depending on how it affects your pain. Don’t do anything that makes the pain worse. Consider slow-pace walks, gentle stretches, and swimming.
- Utilize over-the-counter painkillers to dull the pain, and consider herbal relaxants such as chamomile tea for a better night’s sleep. Don’t use supplements like melatonin or Valerian root without your doctor’s approval, especially if you take other medication.
Long-Term Pain Management
Long-term pain management often relies on a combination of physical therapy, medication, periodic interventions, and lifestyle changes. Your pain management plan may include dietary suggestions, exercise, and OTC medication, but it may also involve non-invasive interventions that help drastically reduce pain for weeks. The sooner you get in touch with a professional, the sooner your symptoms can improve. Contact PMIR today.
Take the First Step Towards Pain-Free Living Today