Back Pain: Causes and Treatments

Back Pain: Causes and Treatments

Back Pain: Causes and Treatments

Back pain is one of the most common reasons people go to the doctor or miss work, and it is a leading cause of disability worldwide.
Lower Back pain is the most common complaint. However, the pain can present anywhere along the spine, from the neck down to the hips.
Back pain can range from a muscle aching to a shooting, burning, or stabbing sensation. In addition, the pain may radiate down your leg or worsen with bending, twisting, lifting, standing, or walking.

What could cause my back pain?

Back pain often develops without a cause that your doctor can identify with a test or an imaging study. Conditions commonly linked to back pain include:

  • Muscle or ligament strain. Repeated heavy lifting or a sudden awkward movement can strain back muscles and spinal ligaments. If you’re in poor physical condition, constant strain on your back can cause painful muscle spasms.
  • Bulging or ruptured disks. Disks act as cushions between the bones (vertebrae) in your spine. The soft material inside a disk can bulge or rupture and press on a nerve. However, you can have a bulging or ruptured disk without back pain. Disk disease is often found incidentally when you have spine X-rays for some other reason.
  • Arthritis. Osteoarthritis can affect the lower back. In some cases, arthritis in the spine can lead to a narrowing of the space around the spinal cord, a condition called spinal stenosis.
  • Osteoporosis. Your spine’s vertebrae can develop painful fractures if your bones become porous and brittle.
  • Sciatica. It’s the irritation of the nerve that runs from the lower back to the feet. This can cause pain, numbness, tingling, and weakness in the lower back, buttocks, legs, and feet.

What are the risk factors for back pain?

Anyone can develop back pain, even children and teens. These factors might put you at greater risk of developing back pain:

  • Age. Back pain is more common as you get older, starting around age 30 or 40.
  • Lack of exercise. Weak, unused muscles in your back and abdomen might lead to back pain.
  • Excess weight. Excess body weight puts extra stress on your back.
  • Improper lifting techniques. Using your back instead of your legs can lead to back pain.
  • Psychological conditions. People prone to depression and anxiety appear to have a greater risk of back pain.
  • Smoking. Smokers have increased rates of back pain. This may occur because smoking prompts more coughing, which can lead to herniated disks. Smoking can also decrease blood flow to the spine and increase the risk of osteoporosis.

How can I prevent back pain?

You might avoid back pain by improving your physical condition and learning and practising proper body mechanics.

To keep your back healthy and strong:

  • Exercise. Regular low-impact aerobic activities — those that don’t strain or jolt your back — can increase strength and endurance in your back and allow your muscles to function better. Walking and swimming can help you achieve this. A physiotherapist can help guide you with the most suitable routine.
  • Build muscle strength and flexibility. Abdominal and back muscle exercises, which strengthen your core, help condition these muscles so that they work together like a natural corset for your back.
  • Maintain a healthy weight. Being overweight strains back muscles. Trimming down your weight can prevent back pain.
  • Quit smoking. Smoking increases your risk of low back pain. The risk increases with the number of cigarettes smoked per day, so quitting should help reduce this risk.
Avoid movements that twist or strain your back. Learn how to use your body:
  • Stand smart. Don’t slouch. Maintain a neutral pelvic position. If you must stand for long periods, place one foot on a low footstool to take some of the load off your lower back and alternate feet. Good posture can reduce the stress on back muscles.
  • Sit smart. Choose a seat with good lower back support, armrests, and a swivel base. Placing a pillow or rolled towel in the small of your back can maintain its normal curve. Keep your knees and hips level. Change your position frequently, at least every half-hour.
  • Lift smart. Avoid heavy lifting, if possible, but if you must lift something heavy, let your legs do the work. Keep your back straight — no twisting — and bend only at the knees. Hold the load close to your body. Find a lifting partner if the object is heavy or awkward.

If I have back pain, How can I treat it?

Everyone is different, and back pain is a complex condition.
Bed rest isn’t recommended in this case. Continue your activities as much as you can tolerate. Try light activities, such as walking and activities of daily living. Stop activities that increase pain, but don’t avoid activity out of fear of pain. 

At Regenecare Pain Management Clinics, our Pain Specialist, Dr. Gehad, will examine your back and assess your ability to sit, stand, walk and lift your legs. He might also ask you to rate your pain on a scale of zero to 10 and talk to you about how well you’re functioning with your pain. 
If there is reason to suspect that a specific condition is causing your back pain, we might refer you for an MRI.
Depending on the type of back pain you have, our Pain Management Specialist might recommend the following:

Medications.

  • Pain relievers. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) may help relieve back pain. Take these medications only as directed by the Pain Specialist. Overuse can cause serious side effects. Topical pain relievers can be used as well. 
  • Muscle relaxants. If mild to moderate back pain doesn’t improve with pain relievers, the doctor might also prescribe a muscle relaxant. Muscle relaxants can make you dizzy and sleepy.
  • Narcotics. In severe cases, drugs containing opioids, such as oxycodone or hydrocodone, may be prescribed for a short time under close supervision by the Pain Management Consultant. Opioids should only be used for temporary relief in cases of chronic pain. Your prescription will provide less than a week’s worth of pills.
  • Antidepressants. Some types of antidepressants — particularly duloxetine (Cymbalta) and tricyclic antidepressants, such as amitriptyline — have been shown to relieve chronic back pain independent of their effect on depression.

Physical Therapy. 

A physical therapist can teach you exercises to increase your flexibility, strengthen your back and abdominal muscles, and improve your posture. Regular use of these techniques can help keep pain from returning. Physical therapists will also provide education about how to modify your movements during an episode of back pain to avoid flaring pain symptoms while continuing to be active.

 

Stem Cells.

This modern outpatient procedure utilizes the body’s natural healing process to rebuild damaged tissue, heal injuries more effectively, and eliminate pain. Stem cell therapy targets the underlying source of pain without relying on medication and surgery, leading to increased function and mobility with a shorter recovery time than surgical options. Stem cells can differentiate into bone, cartilage, or fat cells to stimulate healing in the body.

 

Steroid injection.

A cortisone injection helps decrease inflammation around the nerve roots or at the site of pain, but the pain relief usually lasts only a few months.

 

Surgery.

Surgical procedures are usually indicated for pain arising from structural problems, such as narrowing of the spine (spinal stenosis) or a herniated disc, that hasn’t responded to other therapies.

 

Complementary and integrative health treatments. 

Several alternative treatments might ease symptoms of back pain, but make sure before starting a new alternative therapy, to discuss the benefits and risks with your doctor.

Physiotherapy, Chiropractic care, Acupuncture, Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS), Massage, or Yoga are examples of alternative treatments.

At Regenecare Pain Management Clinics we aim to help you live an active pain-free life.
Our Pain Management Clinics are spread across Dublin, Cork, and Cavan.

 

To make an appointment please call our main office at 01 685 3000 or email us at info@regenecare.ie

 

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