Common Causes Of Chronic Back Pain
Chronic back painis usually age-related, but can also result from a prior injury. The mostcommon causes include:
- Arthritis of the spinethe gradual thinning of the cartilage inside the spine
- Spinal stenosisnarrowing of the spinal canal that may lead to nerve pain
- Disc problems, such as a herniated or bulging disc
- Myofascial pain syndromeunexplained muscle pain and tenderness
In some cases, its difficult to pinpoint the cause of chronic back pain.If your doctor has exhausted all diagnostic options, its time to seek asecond opinion from a back pain specialist, recommends Nava. Itsimportant not to make rushed decisions or undergo extensive medicalprocedures until the origin of the pain is found. Not only may they nothelp they could make the pain worse, warns Nava.
If the source of the pain is not known or cant be treated, your bestoption may be to work with your doctor on reducing the flare-ups and makingthe pain manageable with nonsurgical treatments.
Back Pain Causes and Treatments Webinar | Stephanie Van, M.D.
Chronic back pain is a persistent source of discomfort for many adults. In this webinar, our expert Stephanie Van, M.D., discusses common causes of back pain along with strategies for relief.
When Is Surgery A Good Idea For Back Pain
These red flags can be indicators for surgery, if theyre found to berelated to your spine condition:
- New or progressing bowel/bladder issues
- Weakness in limbs
- Gait and balance problems
- Evidence of increased reflexes
Surgery can also be an option for chronic back pain if there is a knowncause confirmed by imaging and if other treatments didnt help. Getopinions from at least two surgeons, suggests Nava, as pain can stillcome back after the surgery.
Ways To Relieve A Back Spasm
Several home remedies can provide relief for back spasms, especially in the early stages of the condition. A simple shift in your daily habits such as exercising regularly and good posture will set you on the right road to recovery. Common relief methods for back spasms include:
Lets get into the specifics of each remedy in detail.
Recommended Reading: How To Stop Lower Back Pain Fast
What Can I Do About Acute Back Or Neck Pain
The key to recovering from acute back or neck pain is restricting your activity and taking over the counter medications, because most back pain is related to muscle strain. In most cases, acute back pain will go away on its own over a period of days. Here are some tips that will help you recover:
1. Take it easy If you think you’ve hurt your back, ease up on the pressure you’re putting on your back. Many people actually have little choice in the mattertheir back pain will force them to drop to their knees or “freeze” in a bent-over position. Others will be able to function somewhat normally, but with uncomfortable pain. Contrary to popular belief, studies on acute back pain actually show that a few days of restricting your activity, and taking the appropriate over-the-counter medication, is all that many people really need to allow the strained muscles to relax and unbind. However, it is important to talk with your health care provider before taking any medication, especially if you are taking other medications or have a chronic medical condition.
2. Ice, then heat Remember this rule: “Ice first for 48 hours, then heat.” Ice and heat can alleviate local pain that comes from muscle and ligament strain. Ice slows swelling and inflammation and acts as a local anesthetic, but after 48 hours, it loses its effect. Using heat afterwards increases blood flow to the deep tissues and relaxes muscle spasms.
What Are The Symptoms Of A Herniated Disc
Herniated disc symptoms include:
Where your symptoms occur depends on where the herniation is on your spine. For example, if your slipped disc is in your upper back or neck, you may have symptoms in your arms or neck. If it is in your lower back, you may have symptoms in your hips or legs.
Typically, herniated disc symptoms get worse with activity and improve with rest.
Read Also: Where To Go For Back Pain
Treating Back Spasms With Chiropractic Care
During your initial visit, your chiropractor will determine the cause of your muscle spasm. If it is caused by strain or injury, they might perform spinal adjustments or soft tissue therapy to ease the pain and discomfort.
However, if the chiropractor finds an issue with a spinal disc, then you may require different treatment or further imaging. The requisite rehabilitation may involve different exercises and stretches. In some instances, you may also be referred back to your medical doctor for additional care.
If youre worried about the treatment hurting, dont worry chiropractic care is gentle and is always a discussion between you and the treating practitioner.
Ways To Treat Chronic Back Pain Without Surgery
Back pain is considered chronic if it lasts three months or longer. It cancome and go, often bringing temporary relief, followed by frustration.Dealing with chronic back pain can be especially trying if you dont knowthe cause.
Back pain rehabilitationspecialistAndrew Nava, M.D., offers insights into common chronic back pain causes and nonsurgicaltreatment optionsand advises not to give up hope.
Don’t Miss: What Could Be Causing My Back Pain
What Not To Do For A Pulled Back Muscle
When your back hurts, you probably reach for a bottle of painkillers such as NSAIDs and get in bed or crash on the couch. Or you go to the doctor, who may prescribe muscle relaxants.
Im not a fan of Big Pharmas pills.
For one, both NSAIDs and muscle relaxants come with side effects. Some are just annoying, while others are downright dangerous.
Muscle relaxants like the popular Flexeril can cause:
- dry mouth or throat
- loss of appetite, stomach pain, nausea
- diarrhea, constipation, gas
- muscle weakness
And NSAIDs come with their own long list of dangerous side effects, the worst of which is an increased risk of heart attack or stroke.
For short-term pain relief, I recommend natural painkillers.
But there are other ways to relieve the pain and speed up the healing process.
Key takeaway: Big Pharmas solutions fall short when it comes to pulled back muscles and may even cause serious side effects.
Sleeping And Lying Down
- Select a firm mattress and box spring set that does not sag. If necessary, place a board under your mattress. You can also place the mattress on the floor temporarily if necessary.
- If you’ve always slept on a soft surface, it may be more painful to change to a hard surface. Try to do what is most comfortable for you.
- Use a back support at night to make you more comfortable. A rolled sheet or towel tied around your waist may be helpful.
- Use a firm pillow that supports the curve of your neck.
- Do not sleep on your side with your knees drawn up to your chest.
- When standing up from the lying position, turn on your side, draw up both knees and swing your legs on the side of the bed. Sit up by pushing yourself up with your hands. Avoid bending forward at your waist.
You May Like: What To Do When You Strain Your Lower Back
Acute Low Back Pain Often Resolves With Self
Low back pain is one of the most common disorders in the United States. Approximately 80 percent of people will experience at least one episode of low back pain in their lifetime.
Most low back pain is mechanical in nature, meaning the pain is triggered by movement of the spine and the source of pain may involve the intervertebral discs, vertebrae, facet joints, nerves, or soft tissues. Less frequently, it may be due to an underlying medical condition.
According to the National Institute of Health, most low back pain is acute, or short-term, lasting a few days to a few weeks. With self-care, which includes a short period of rest, heat and cold therapy, exercise, stress relief, and over-the-counter pain medication, this pain tends to resolve without loss of function.
Acute pain lasts less than 4 weeks, whereas subacute pain lasts between 4 and 12 weeks. Approximately 20 percent of people with low back pain develop chronic low back pain .
Those with chronic low back pain experience persistent symptoms, even after an initial injury or underlying cause of pain has been treated.
Rest But Not Too Much
Dont rest too long. A little couch time wont hurt, but light activity speeds recovery, so avoid lying down for long periods of time.
Growing evidence shows there is little or no benefit to bed rest over staying active.
So use this rule of thumb: listen to your body.
Ultimately, your level of pain will determine your level of activity.
If a certain activity led to a pulled muscle dont repeat it for at least a week.
For example, if your back pain started after lifting something heavy, avoid lifting heavy objects for at least a week while your pulled back muscle heals.
Also, avoid sitting for too long. Long periods of sitting can tighten your muscles and cause lower back muscle pain and stiffness.
When you sit and stand, use good posture, avoiding slumping in your head and shoulders.
Recommended Reading: How To Sleep With Middle Back Pain
How To Know If The Back Pain Is Muscular Or Discal
Your doctor may perform a neurological exam to check muscle strength, reflexes, the ability to walk, and the ability to feel touch. Imaging tests may be ordered to diagnose the cause of your pain. A CT scan shows cross-sectional images of the spine and can identify a herniated disc.
How to know if back pain is muscular?
Symptoms that can be expected from a pulled lower back muscle or any type of tension in the lower back usually include: dull, aching lower back pain. Tight muscles are usually sore, tense, or sore. Pain that feels hot, tingling, or electric is more likely caused by an irritated nerve root, not a pulled muscle.
The Genetics Of Back Pain
Your experiences with back pain may have a lot to do with your individual genetic makeup. “The symptoms associated with back pain are highly variable,” says Dr. Rainville. “Pain can last anywhere from a day to three months.”
And just as some people are prone to heightened pain which may occur in people with conditions such as fibromyalgia some people are at the opposite end of the spectrum and less prone to pain.
Research has shown that the tendency to experience more or less back pain runs in families. For example, identical twins often have similar histories of back pain, says Dr. Rainville. This is the case even if they have completely different lives and experiences for example, if one twin has a desk job and the other performs heavy labor in construction. “These things are likely highly genetic,” says Dr. Rainville.
Don’t Miss: How To Lay Down With Upper Back Pain
All Patients Are Evaluated With A Thorough History And Physical Examination
Before providing treatment options, I evaluate each patient with a comprehensive history and physical examination.
Although it may not be possible to determine the exact cause of low back pain in many patients, the evaluation for evidence of specific causes of back pain is important.
I care for many patients who have mechanical low back pain without associated neurological deficits. Such patients do not require imaging studies.
However, there are red flags that indicate need for further investigation.
If you have any of the following, please seek an evaluation by a physician:
- New back pain if you are 70 years or older
- Pain that persists, even at night or when lying down
- Weakness in one or both legs or problems with bladder, bowel, or sexual function
- Back pain accompanied by unexplained fever or weight loss
- A history of cancer, a weakened immune system, osteoporosis, or the use of corticosteroids for a prolonged period
- Back pain from a fall or an accident, especially if you are older than 50
- Pain that spreads into the lower leg, particularly if accompanied by weakness in the leg
- Back pain that does not improve within four weeks
Imaging tests, including plain radiographs, magnetic resonance imaging , and electrodiagnostic studies, may be recommended for people with certain conditions.
Try To Boost Your Mood
No, the lower back pain isnt in your head, but obsessing over it could be making it worse. Fear, anxiety, and catastrophizing can amplify pain, says Dr. Mackey. Because brain circuits that process pain overlap dramatically with circuits involved with emotions, panic can translate into actual pain. Start by accepting that you have pain, Dr. Mackey says. Then say to yourself, it will get better. If you struggle with overall mental wellbeingsay, you have anxiety or depressionin addition to your physical aches, it could be worth seeing a therapist to manage negative thought processes while exploring other lower back pain treatments.
You May Like: Can Lower Back Pain Be A Sign Of Early Pregnancy
Find Activities That Make You Happy
Ongoing back pain can wreak havoc on your life, affecting your cherished relationships, finances, and your ability to get stuff done at work and at home. Finding activities that make you happy can help reduce some stress and may relieve some pain.
Some people find that even doing just 3 things that make them feel good each daysuch as enjoying a comforting cup of tea or coffee, calling an old friend, walking the dog, or receiving a longish 30-second hug from a loved onecan make pain more tolerable.
Even something as simple as laughter with a friend may stimulate feel-good endorphins.1, 2
When Should You See Your Doctor
Most of the time, you can treat back pain at home without seeing a doctor. However, you should get medical advice if:
- Your pain is so severe that you can’t go to work or do basic self-care tasks.
- Your symptoms don’t get better after six weeks of home treatment.
- You can not walk or stand well.
- Your symptoms are getting worse.
- You lose control of your bladder or bowel movements.
- You have tingling, numbness, or weakness in your extremities. This could be a sign of another condition.
Also Check: How Do You Relieve Lower Back Pain
Tips For Dealing With Lower Back Pain
By Robert Greenleaf, MD, Spine Surgeon
Lower back pain is extremely common and one of the top reasons for missed workdays. Thats because the lower back supports the weight of the upper body and is subject to a lot of stress and strainespecially during everyday movements like lifting and twisting.
One of two things typically causes lower back pain: a sudden injury or the wear and tear of aging, arthritis and physical activity. No matter the cause of your lower back pain, here are 10 recommendations that can help you relieve it and prevent future problems.
One Back Pain Treatment You Probably Dont Need
Back pain can be incredibly frustrating, and going under the knife may seem like the quickest, easiest fix to bring relief. But the truth is, many people dont need surgery for lower back pain management, Dr. Park says.
If your back pain is musculoskeletal, you will not require surgery, but if its a pinched nerve thats due to a disc herniation or something else, you may need to have surgery, he says. But even in those people, when you go through a six-to-eight-week course of treatment that includes physical therapy and activity modification, 85 to 90 percent of the time, they wont need surgery.
However, if you try the treatments above and dont see any improvement or still feel pain, talk to your doctor about a referral to a pain management specialist, as more specific tests or treatments may be required to get to the bottom of whats going on.
Stay updated on the latest science-backed health, fitness, and nutrition news by signing up for the Prevention.com newsletter here.
Recommended Reading: How To Back Massage For Pain Relief
Risk Factors For Pulled Back Muscles
While that pulled back muscle may seem to come on suddenly, chances are it was a long time coming.
You could be ignoring some very important warning signs. Which means if youre not in pain now, you might want to sit up and pay attention.
Do you sit in a chair all day? Do you exercise incorrectly? Are you under tremendous stress? Are you dehydrated? Are you substantially overweight?
Did you honestly answer yes to one or more of those questions?
If so, then youre at greater risk of muscle imbalances, trigger point pain, and at higher risk for injuries like a pulled back muscle.
But when you do experience pulled back muscles what do you do?
Well cover that more in the next section.
Key takeaway: There are several risk factors that can make you more susceptible to pulled back muscles, including stress, poor posture, being overweight and even how hydrated you are.
Avoid Prolonged Static Posture
It is important to pay attention to the joints and muscles of your spine and hip. Prevent fatigue and stresses on these joints by following simple tips, such as:
- Avoid excessive sitting or consider using a standing desk while you work. When you sit for a long duration, the pressure on your spinal discs increase. Aim to get up every hour and walk a short distance to take the load off your discs.
When you have a flare-up of symptoms, consider less exertive activities, such as reading a book, listening to music, or crafting. These activities can help divert your mind from the pain and let your back rest at the same time.
Also Check: What Is Better For Back Pain Aleve Or Ibuprofen