Back Pain – One Of The Most Common Medical Issues

Anywhere you go in the world, back pain is one of the most common and frequent reasons for patients to visit a physician and for adults to miss a day of work. According to the American Academy of Family Physicians, “90% of people experience back pain at least once in their life with 50% of the working population experiencing it at least once a year.” The 5th most common cause for physician appointments in the United States is Lumbago, which is pain in the lower back.

There are many different types of back injury with a multitude of potential causes, which means a visit to the doctor is sometimes your best option. The good news is that physicians can usually treat your back pain with non-invasive techniques without needing to resort to surgery. Of course your best course of action is to prevent back pain in the first place by maintaining proper posture, using correct techniques for lifting, stretching before exercise, and wearing proper footwear for your activity.

The Different Types of Back Pain

Back pain is usually classified as either acute, subacute or chronic. Acute back pain lasts less than a month, subacute lasts last over a month but less than three months, and chronic lasts over three months. If the pain has lasted any longer than three days, you should see a physician. Physicians will locate the issue to 4 specific areas of your back: neck (cervical region), upper back (thoracic region), lower back (lumbar region) and tailbone (sacral and coccyx regions).  After the doctor determines the location and duration of your back pain they will start looking at the pathology, or cause, of the problem.

Potential Causes of Back Pain

While there are many potential causes of back pain, many of them actually have no serious underlying causes. In fact, according to MedScape, in over 97% of cases the diagnosis is acute with no specific location. Occasionally there are underlying reasons for the pain; some are potentially life threatening like cancer or infection and others less serious like sciatica or bulging discs. In rare cases some individuals may even have an extra vertebrae, which causes the spine to function abnormally. Some of the most common causes of back pain are:

  • Injury from exercise, heavy lifting, or a sudden and awkward movement
  • Muscle spasms
  • Trauma from a fall or vehicle accident
  • Osteoporosis or small compression fractures
  • Arthritis causing the hollow area around the spinal cord to narrow
  • Bulging or herniated discs
  • Constipation
  • Stress & depression

Of course there is the potential for serious underlying conditions that cause back pain including:

  • Metastatic cancer, which is cancer that has spread to the spine from another location
  • Fractured vertebrae following severe trauma
  • Osteomyelitis or an infection  of the vertebral body
  • Cauda equina syndrome, a serious neurological problem
  • Epidural abscess between the spinal cord and the vertebrae

Your Doctor’s Potential Treatment Options

Because there are so many potential causes of back pain, it is important to get a diagnosis from a back pain specialist, like those at Chicagolands’s IBJI. Sometimes the treatment is fairly straight forward. The use of heat & cold therapy, massage, acupuncture, exercise, and manipulation are fairly common ways to treat the less serious causes. In certain cases your physician may prescribe medications. The types of medication used in treating more serious cases include pain relievers, muscle relaxants, anti-inflammatories, narcotic pain relievers, and anti depressants. In the most severe cases a physician may advise you to have surgical intervention performed. The possible surgical treatments may include one of, or a combination of different techniques. These techniques can range from minimally invasive outpatient surgery to more intricate arthroscopic procedures that require a hospital stay. For more on specific types of surgical options available for various spine and back problems be sure to consult with your orthopedic spine surgeon.

When To See A Doctor

Seeing a doctor for your back pain is often necessary. If the pain has lasted longer than three days you should strongly consider making an appointment. Sever pain that is affecting the way you move and normally function usually necessitates an appointment. If you are starting an exercise program it is important to first be cleared by your doctor prevent not only further back injury, but other potential issues. Lastly, if you are concerned about long lasting back pain, a doctor may be able to assist in alleviating your discomfort. The physicians at IBJI are always ready to help you when you are experiencing any kind of back or joint pain. Find one of IBJI’s orthopedic spine specialists near you to get back on your feet and get rid of your back pain.

This information is not intended to provide advise or treatment for a specific situation. Consult your physician and medical team for information and treatment plans on your specific condition(s).