Overview of Back Pain and Treatment from a Colorado pain clinic

Back pain is a worldwide leading cause of disability. It’s the most common reason that people miss work and go to the doctor. Most people experience this pain at least once in their life.

Certain measures can be taken to prevent back pain experiences. If you can’t prevent it, there are ways to help relieve back pain until hopefully it feels normal again. Within a week or so, your back should feel better with home treatments. If the pain is more severe, a doctor must be consulted.

 

How common is back pain?

 

According to the National Electronic Injury Surveillance System, 20.6 million people experience low back pain in America. The incidence rate is 1.39 per 1,000 person-years for the U.S. Regarding U.S. emergency department visits, 3.15% of the incidence involved back pain. Low back pain peaks between ages 25 and 29 years. Also, women ages 65 to 94 years have increased risk of low back pain.

 

What causes back pain?

 

Back pain can be caused from one or more conditions, which include:

 

  • Osteoarthritis – This condition affects the lower back causing spinal stenosis, where arthritis in the spine can lead to a narrowing of the space around the spinal cord.

 

  • Muscle or ligament strain – This involves poor physical health and constant strain on the back, which causes painful muscle spasms. Also, sudden movement and heavy lifting can put a strain on the back muscles and spinal ligaments.

 

  • Osteoporosis – If your bones become porous and brittle, your spine’s vertebrae (spinal bones) can develop compression fractures, which are called vertebral compression fractures.

 

  • Ruptured or bulging discs – Soft material inside a disc can bulge or rupture, pressing on a nerve. The disks act as cushions between bones (vertebrae) in your spine.

 

  • Skeletal irregularities – Scoliosis is a condition that causes the spine to curve to the side, which is painful but usually only in severe cases.

 

  • Lack of exercise – Unused or weak muscles in the back may lead to back pain.

 

  • Age – As people get older, even as early as thirty, back pain becomes more likely.

 

  • Heavy or improper lifting – Lifting without using your legs can cause back pain.

 

  • Excess weight – Being overweight puts extra stress on the back.

 

  • Diseases – Could be lung problems, cancer, or bone conditions

 

  • Smoking – If you smoke, nutrients will not be supplied to the discs in the back.

 

  • Mental conditions – Anxiety and depression may cause back pain in people prone to it.

 

How is back pain diagnosed?

 

Most back pain is treatable at home with home remedies and over-the-counter pain medications. The pain associated with a mild strain usually resolves within a couple of weeks. However, if the pain gets worse, or persists, contact your doctor. In some cases, back pain is a sign of a more serious medical condition. See your doctor if you notice the following after an injury to the back or pain develops with:

 

  • Bowel or bladder problems
  • Fever
  • Blow to the back or a fall

 

The Colorado pain doctor will do a physical examination, which may involve you sitting, standing, walking. and lifting your legs. If the doctor is suspicious of a particular condition, he/she may order tests to rule out more-serious conditions or to make a diagnosis. Testing could include:

 

  • X-ray
  • MRI/CT scan
  • Blood tests
  • Nerve conduction studies
  • Bone scan

 

How is back pain treated?

 

Depending on the cause and type of back pain, your doctor may order the following:

 

  • Topical pain relievers – Includes creams, salves, patches or ointments to rub on the skin.
  • Muscle relaxants – These medications are used when muscle spasms occur, and they could cause sleepiness or dizziness.
  • Over-the-counter pain relievers – Such as acetaminophen (Tylenol) or a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID), such as ibuprofen or naproxen sodium. Be cautions, as some have serious side effects if overused.
  • Narcotic analgesics – This includes codeine, hydrocodone, or oxycodone, which may help for short periods.
  • Injections – The Loveland pain doctor may inject the spine using an epidural steroid injection (ESI). Cortisone and other corticosteroids (anti-inflammatory medication) helps decrease inflammation around the nerve roots.
  • Spinal surgery – Discectomy, spinal fusion, and other surgeries are a last resort but it necessary at times.

 

Resources

 

Waterman BR, Belmont PJ, & Schoenfeld AJ (2012). Low back pain in the United States: incidence and risk factors for presentation in the emergency setting. The Spine Journal, 12(1), 63-70.