Worldwide, back pain causes more adults to visit a physician than any other reason and is a common reason people 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 fifth most common cause of physician appointments in the United States is lumbago, or lower back pain.
Read on to learn about acute and chronic back pain causes, common treatments, and when to see a doctor about your pain.
The Different Types of Back Pain
There are many different types of back injury with many potential causes, which means a visit to the doctor is sometimes your best option. The good news is that physicians can treat most back pain causes with non-invasive techniques without resorting to spine 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 appropriate footwear for your activity.
Back pain is classified as follows:
Acute: Lasts Less Than a Month
Subacute: Lasts more Than a Month
Chronic: Lasts More Than Three Months
If back pain lasts longer than three days, you should see a physician. Physicians will pinpoint the issue to one of four specific areas of your back:
Neck (Cervical Region)
Upper Back (Thoracic Region)
Lower Back (Lumbar Region)
Tailbone (Sacral and Coccyx Regions)
After the doctor determines the location and duration of your pain, they will start looking at the pathology or back pain causes.
Potential Back Pain Causes
While there are many possible reasons for back pain, many have no serious underlying cause. 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 potentially life-threatening—like cancer or infection. Other back pain causes are less severe, like sciatica or bulging discs. In rare cases, some individuals may even have an extra vertebra, which causes the spine to function abnormally.
Some of the most common back pain causes include:
Injuries From Exercise, Heavy Lifting, or Sudden and Awkward Movements
Arthritis Causing the Hollow Area Around the Spinal Cord to Narrow
Bulging Discs or Herniated Discs
Additionally, there is 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
Potential Treatment Options
Because there are so many potential back pain causes, it is essential to get a diagnosis from a back pain specialist, like those at Chicagoland’s IBJI.
Sometimes the proper treatment is pretty straightforward. The use of hot and cold therapy, massage, acupuncture, exercise, and manipulation are common ways to treat less serious back pain causes.
In some instances of back pain, your physician may prescribe medications. The types of medication used in treating more severe cases include:
Narcotic Pain Relievers
In the most severe cases, a physician may advise you to have surgical intervention performed. Surgical treatments may include one technique or a combination of different methods. 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 back pain causes, be sure to consult with a qualified 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. Severe pain that affects how you move and normally function usually necessitates an appointment.
If you are starting an exercise program, it is first necessary to be cleared by your doctor to prevent further back injury and other potential issues. If you are concerned about prolonged 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 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.
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