The spine and back are made to provide a lot of strength, protecting the highly sensitive spinal cord and nerve roots, yet flexible, providing for freedom in all directions. But, many distinct parts of the spine can cause back pain, such as irritation to the large nerve roots that run down the arms and legs, irritation to little nerves within the spine, strains to the large back muscles, as well as any injury to the disk, bones, joints or ligaments in the spine.
Acute back pain comes on suddenly and usually lasts from a few days to a couple of weeks. Chronic back pain is described as continuing over three months.
Fortunately, most types get better on their own: roughly 50% of individuals may experience relief within two weeks and 90% within three months.
If the pain lasts for a few days, gets worse, does not react to remedies such as rest, using heat or ice, exercises, and over-the-counter pain relievers, then it is usually a good idea to see a back doctor. There are two cases in which emergency medical care is of utmost importance:
Fortunately, these conditions are rare.
Diagnostic tests may indicate if a patient’s back pain is a result of an anatomic cause. However, because diagnostic evaluations in and of themselves aren’t a diagnosis, arriving at an accurate clinical diagnosis requires an assessment to be correlated with the patient’s back pain symptoms and physical exam.
Injections may also be used to help diagnose specific types of pain. For example, if a dose of a pain-relieving medication is injected into a particular area in the backbone that supplies back pain relief, it affirms the area causing pain.
By far, the most frequent cause of lower back pain is muscle strain or other soft tissue damage. Although this condition is not severe, it may be severely painful. Typically, lower back pain from a muscle strain will probably get better over a few weeks.
Treatment generally involves a short period of rest, activity restriction, hot packs or cold packs, and pain medications. Over-the-counter pain drugs used to treat muscle strain may include acetaminophen (e.g., Tylenol), ibuprofen (Advil), Motrin, or naproxen (e.g., Aleve). There could also be recommended prescription pain medications for severe back pain.
Typically, younger people (30 to 60-year-olds) are more likely to experience back pain from the disc space itself (e.g., lumbar disc herniation or degenerative disk disease). Conversely, older adults (e.g., over 60) are more likely to suffer from pain linked to joint degeneration (e.g., osteoarthritis, spinal stenosis).
Sometimes, a patient may experience more noticeable leg pain as opposed to back pain as a result of certain conditions in the lower spine, including:
It’s important to know the underlying condition that is the reason for the back pain, as remedies will often differ depending upon the causes of back pain.
There are many risk factors for back pain, including aging, genetics, occupational hazards, lifestyle, weight, posture, smoking, and pregnancy. However, with that said, back pain is so widespread that it can strike even if you don’t have any risk factors at all.
Patients with one or more of these factors might be at risk for back pain:
Generally, when the pain has any of the following characteristics, It’s a good idea to visit a doctor for an evaluation:
The bottom line that everyone should remember is that if a person is in doubt, consult a physician. If pain worsens over time, doesn’t get better with rest and over-the-counter pain remedies, or entails neurological symptoms, then it’s a good idea to see a spine specialist.
Pain in the upper and mid-back is not as common as lower back or neck pain. This is because the upper part of the spine is called the thoracic spinal column, and it is the most secure part of the spine. In addition, the movement’s reach in the upper back becomes limited because of the backbone’s attachments to the ribs (rib cage).
Upper back pain is generally caused by soft tissue injuries, like sprains or strains, muscle tension caused by bad posture, or looking downward for long time spans (e.g., texting, mobile phone use).
An episode can activate by distinct moves and actions, including:
Poor posture working at the computer for a long time without taking a break to walk around and extend, or in general, can promote upper back pain. In addition, both muscle fatigue and muscle pull, which often result from poor posture, can trigger discomfort.
Usually, upper back pain is not a cause for worry; however, it can be uncomfortable, painful, and inconvenient also, if pain develops suddenly and is serious—such as from an injury (e.g., fall)—and, indeed, if pain and symptoms (e.g., weakness) progressively worsen, you should seek medical attention.
Generally, the next home treatments can help relieve upper back pain.
Your physician may prescribe drugs, like a muscle relaxant or perform trigger point injections to help break up muscle spasms. They may also recommend physical therapy to increase flexibility, mobility and alleviate pain. Other treatments your doctor may suggest include acupuncture and chiropractic care.
Most cases of upper back pain resolve in 1 to 2 weeks without additional treatment. Once you’re able to perform them without pain, then restart your regular activities slowly. Don’t rush matters, however: you could interfere with your healing and risk re-injury.
Low and lower back pain can differ from dull pain, which develops gradually to a sudden, sharp, or persistent pain felt under the waist. Regrettably, almost everyone, at some point during life, may experience pain that may travel downward into the buttocks and sometimes into one or both lower extremities. The most common cause is muscle strain, often linked to heavy physical labor, lifting or powerful movement, bending or twisting to awkward positions, or standing too long.
Several different conditions cause or lead to pain. Many involve nerve compression (e.g., pinched nerve) that can cause pain and other ailments. Kinds of spinal disorders include trauma-related and degenerative diseases, meaning age-related. A few of these spinal problems are below.
If you have recently injured your low or lower back, here are some things you can do.
Caution: Never use a cold or heat source directly on the skin; always wrap it into something.
When the pain becomes severe and persistent
The information herein on "Back Pain" is not intended to replace a one-on-one relationship with a qualified health care professional, or licensed physician, and is not medical advice. We encourage you to make your own healthcare decisions based on your research and partnership with a qualified healthcare professional.
Our information scope is limited to Chiropractic, musculoskeletal, physical medicines, wellness, contributing etiological viscerosomatic disturbances within clinical presentations, associated somatovisceral reflex clinical dynamics, subluxation complexes, sensitive health issues, and/or functional medicine articles, topics, and discussions.
We provide and present clinical collaboration with specialists from a wide array of disciplines. Each specialist is governed by their professional scope of practice and their jurisdiction of licensure. We use functional health & wellness protocols to treat and support care for the injuries or disorders of the musculoskeletal system.
Our videos, posts, topics, subjects, and insights cover clinical matters, issues, and topics that relate to and support, directly or indirectly, our clinical scope of practice.*
Our office has made a reasonable attempt to provide supportive citations and has identified the relevant research study or studies supporting our posts. We provide copies of supporting research studies available to regulatory boards and the public upon request.
We understand that we cover matters that require an additional explanation of how it may assist in a particular care plan or treatment protocol; therefore, to further discuss the subject matter above, please feel free to ask Dr. Alex Jimenez DC or contact us at 915-850-0900.
We are here to help you and your family.
Dr. Alex Jimenez DC, MSACP, CIFM*, IFMCP*, ATN*, CCST
My Digital Business Card