Back pain is discomfort and pain caused by injury or illness between the shoulders and the hips.
Back pain is not a disease, but a symptom of various medical conditions, such as osteoporosis, sciatica, and general muscle strain.
65 million adults report a recent bout of acute (short-term) back pain, and 16 million suffer from chronic (persistent) back pain. Adults with back pain earn less income and spend more on healthcare than their counterparts without back pain.
Instead of living with back pain, improve your overall quality of life by getting your back pain treated. Just because it’s common doesn’t mean you have to live with it!
Let’s cover the common causes, risk factors, and the best treatment options for back pain.
The most common causes of back pain are:
What causes back pain in females? These are conditions that cause back pain that apply more to women than men:
What are the risk factors for back pain?
Here are the symptoms you may feel when you have back pain:
How do I know if my back pain is serious? Your back pain is serious if it is accompanied by any of the following symptoms:
Back pain should also be considered serious if it occurs shortly after an injury or accident (car accident, sports-related injury, fall, etc.).
Most healthcare professionals will ask about symptoms and perform a physical examination, medical history, and family history. But to diagnose the cause of your back pain, tests are often required.
Doctors tend to use the following tests to diagnose back pain:
How do you know if back pain is in the muscles or discs? Back pain is muscle-related if your back hurts more when you’re moving than when you’re still. Back pain is disc-related if moving relieves pain, if bending forward hurts more than returning to an upright position, and if pain radiates past your buttocks into your legs.
What can I do to relieve my back pain? These 9 treatment options can relieve back pain:
Always seek medical advice before you take back pain treatment into your own hands.
Also called manual spinal manipulation, chiropractic care is a treatment plan in which a chiropractor adjusts spinal alignment and mobilizes the surrounding muscles and joints.
Research indicates that chiropractic care is better and more cost-effective than taking medicine and/or visiting a primary care physician.
Chiropractors leave their patients feeling less pain, less disabled, less dependent on drugs, and more satisfied.
Different chiropractors may have different methods. At Denver Upper Cervical Chiropractic, we employ gentle spinal manipulations mainly to the upper spine. We do not treat our patients like rag dolls. Our approach is gentle enough for newborns and grandmas.
Also called physiotherapy, physical therapy for back pain sufferers uses stretches and exercises that improve posture and musculoskeletal strength.
Physical therapists also help to prevent future injuries through patient education and core muscle strengthening.
The stretches and exercises you learn may be difficult to remember if you are experiencing little or no pain. And once the pain comes back, it could take at least a day for the stretches and exercises to alleviate your pain.
So it’s important to remember to do your stretches and exercises learned at physical therapy, even if you aren’t experiencing back pain at that moment.
Also, obesity and excess weight are risk factors for low back pain. Exercise helps you maintain a healthy weight.
The following lifestyle changes may relieve or prevent back pain:
Many experts recommend pain-relieving pharmaceuticals to “treat” back pain. This is a pretty medieval solution to a complex problem.
I suggest identifying the root cause of back pain and treating that root cause, so you don’t have to take side effect-laden drugs.
Acetaminophen can relieve acute low back pain. Studies show it works moderately better than a placebo for back pain. Side effects include abdominal pain, nausea, changes in appetite, headaches, yellowing of the skin, and dark urine.
Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like ibuprofen and naproxen treat inflammation, which is often involved in back pain. Side effects of NSAIDs include stomach ulcers, indigestion, stomach aches, diarrhea, headaches, drowsiness, and dizziness.
These pain medications are for pain management only and should not be used for long-term treatment of back pain.
Doctors may prescribe you prescription medications, including extra-strength acetaminophen or NSAIDs.
They may also prescribe opioids, such as oxycodone or hydrocodone, which interact with receptors on nerve cells in the body and brain to reduce pain.
However, you may have heard of the opioid epidemic. Opioids are famously over-prescribed and incredibly addictive.
Muscle relaxants reduce pain for a short period of time. But they are only recommended for back pain sufferers who also experience muscle spasms. The most common side effect is drowsiness.
Prescription antidepressants may relieve back pain even if the patient is not depressed. Antidepressants may lead to nausea, sexual dysfunction, fatigue, insomnia, diarrhea or constipation, and increased appetite/weight gain.
There are various injections your doctor may administer to treat back pain, depending on the root cause:
Acupuncture is the strategic insertion of filiform needles into trigger points to relieve back pain and other conditions.
Acupuncture works better than a placebo at treating chronic low back pain.
Dry needling is a modern, evidence-based practice very similar to acupuncture, except it is solely based on scientific research, not ancient traditional medicine.
Massage therapy is when a licensed professional manually manipulates muscles and soft tissues for stress reduction and pain relief.
A massage should help ease tense or overworked muscles, a common cause of back pain.
If back strain is causing your back pain and it isn’t going away, look for a highly-qualified massage therapist today.
Surgical options are a last resort for most adults suffering from back pain. They may be necessary due to structural issues that cause pain, such as those resulting from an injury.
7 common surgeries for back pain:
9 helpful tips on how to prevent back pain:
Back pain can be brought on or worsened by sitting for long periods of time. The best way to combat it is to practice daily stretches to counteract a sedentary lifestyle and prevent chronic or acute back pain.
When should I be worried about lower back pain? You should be worried about lower back pain only if:
Seek immediate medical attention if your back pain accompanies fever, unexplained weight loss, or new issues with your bladder or bowels. These may indicate a serious condition.
If back pain pops up after a fall or a traumatic injury, visit your doctor ASAP.
Upper back pain is associated with an increased risk of kidney problems or cancer, more so than lower back pain.
On any given day, it is estimated 12% of human beings are experiencing low back pain. Just because it’s normal doesn’t mean you shouldn’t seek treatment. Fortunately, back pain can often be treated with chiropractic care.
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Dr. Ty Carzoli
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