What Causes Back Pain and How it can Be Treated

December 05 22:15 2022

Back pain affects nearly 80% of Americans, and the most common form is lower back pain. Because you rely on your back for nearly every move you make, it’s vulnerable to injury. Back pain can also be disabling. It is one of the most common problems that require a visit to the doctor and lack of work. In fact, it is the second leading cause of disability in people under 45.

Although people complain of back pain, it’s not a diagnosis but rather a symptom of an underlying disorder. There are two types of back pain, acute and chronic. Acute back pain is new onset pain. It comes on suddenly, usually from an injury. This is the most common type of back pain. It usually clears up in less than a month but no more than 6 weeks in duration. Chronic pain is pain that can start quickly or slowly, but persists for long periods of time. While it can last three months or more, some people suffer from lifelong chronic back pain. Chronic pain is the least common type of pain.

What causes back pain?

To begin understanding the causes of back pain, we need to understand the spine. The back is made up of 33 vertebrae or bones. It is divided into 5 groups: Cervical, Thoracic, Lumbar, Sacral and Coccygeal. The cervical spine (upper back or neck) is made up of 7 vertebrae. The thoracic (mid back) has 12 and the lumbar spine (lower back) has 5 vertebrae. The sacrum consists of 5 fused vertebrae and the coccyx (tail bone) has 4 fused vertebrae.  The vertebrae are held together by ligaments and muscles with discs between the vertebrae. The discs are filled with a gel-like center, which allows them to act as shock absorbers. The vertebrae come together to provide stability and support. They protect the spinal cord and the spinal nerves that pass through the spinal canal.

Because the neurological system is complex, it is difficult to identify the exact cause of back pain. The causes of back pain are divided into categories: Mechanical, Injuries, Acquired disorders or diseases, Infections or tumors.

Mechanical causes: These are problems with the functioning of the spine. For example, spondylolisthesis (deterioration of the disc of one vertebra sliding forward over another, causing the vertebrae to rub against each other and thus causing pain). Other mechanical problems are fractures, herniated discs, spinal stenosis, spinal degeneration and sciatica. 

Injuries – This category includes common forms of back pain due to injuries to the spine or the ligaments and muscles involved in the spine. Sprains, for example, occur if a ligament that supports the spine is pulled or torn due to improper lifting or body mechanics, even when twisted incorrectly. Fractures can occur due to osteoarthritis which makes bones brittle and weak. Serious injuries can result from an accident or a fall.

Acquired disorders: These are medical problems you may have been born with, such as scoliosis (an abnormal curvature of the spine) to other acquired problems, such as arthritis (osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis) that can lead to fractures; musculoskeletal pain syndromes such as fibromyalgia, spinal stenosis (narrowing of the spinal canal putting pressure on the spine or nerves); and also pregnancy. Infection/tumor: Infection, although uncommon, can cause pain if it involves the vertebrae. Two examples of this are osteomyelitis (infection and inflammation of the vertebrae) and discitis (disc infection). Tumors, although rare, can also cause back pain. These can be benign or cancerous, and usually come from a tumor that has spread from another area of ​​the body.

How is back pain diagnosed? 

In order for your doctor to discuss the appropriate treatment for your back pain, you will need to take a complete medical history and physical exam. You will need to provide a clear and concise description of your pain. Your doctor will need to know how the pain started, what you were doing when it started, how severe it is, whether it comes and goes or is constant, and what makes the pain better or worse. 

You will also need to undergo some diagnostic tests. Common tests done to diagnose back pain include X-rays, bone scans, and MRIs. These diagnose problems due to injury to the bones or soft tissue. Your doctor may order blood and urine tests to look for an infection. If your doctor thinks your pain may be due to a nerve problem, you will have an EMG (electromyography) or nerve study. An EMG is an evaluation of the electrical impulses of the nerves and the response of the muscles.

How is back pain treated? 

The common goals of treatment are to relieve back pain and restore mobility. Treatment varies depending on the severity and type of injury. The most common and basic treatment used for minor strains or injuries is rest. Heat can be used to promote circulation to the area and relieve spasms. Cold packs can be used to reduce swelling in the affected area of ​​the back. Common over-the-counter (OTC) medications such as aspirin, Motrin, Tylenol, and Aleve are prescribed to relieve pain and inflammation. Long-term bed rest isn’t generally recommended because it can slow recovery and eventually cause other problems. Usually, your doctor will ask you to gradually resume your normal activities after 24 to 72 hours of rest. It can start with a physical therapy program that should include heat, massage, ultrasound, and an individualized exercise regimen. 

If the pain does not go away and interferes with normal daily activities, your doctor may prescribe pain relievers such as Darvocet, Vicodin or Percocet and anti-inflammatory agents to relieve muscle spasm. 

If your pain becomes chronic and all other treatments have failed, your doctor may refer you to a back pain specialist. Because the back is a complex entity, specialists are most up-to-date on new advances in back pain treatment. Some treatments you may encounter are epidural nerve blocks (injection of anesthetic, anti-inflammatory, or steroid into the epidural space of the back for long-term pain relief) and trigger point injections (injection of steroid and anesthetic into the muscle that triggers the pain). .) This should also provide long-term pain relief.  Other medications, such as antidepressants and anticonvulsants, have been found to help relieve pain caused by nerve damage.

Other types of treatment

The TENS (Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation) unit. 

Electrodes are placed on 2 or 3 painful areas of the back and attached to a unit that delivers a mild electrical stimulus to the area for pain relief.

Chiropractic back adjustments.

Chiropractic back adjustments are a type of manual therapy that is used to treat a variety of musculoskeletal conditions. The goal of chiropractic back adjustments is to improve joint function and reduce pain. Chiropractic back adjustments are usually done by a licensed chiropractor.

There are a few different techniques that can be used for chiropractic back adjustments. The most common is the high-velocity low-amplitude (HVLA) technique. This technique involves the use of a quick, short thrust to the affected joint. Other techniques include the use of light pressure or gentle pressure.

Acupressure or acupuncture treatments. 

Acupressure and acupuncture are two popular treatments for pain relief. Both treatments are based on the premise that there are pressure points in the body that can be manipulated to relieve pain.

Acupressure is a treatment that uses pressure on these points, while acupuncture uses needles. Both treatments are effective for pain relief, but there is some debate as to which one is more effective.

Acupressure is generally considered to be safer than acupuncture, as there is no risk of infection from needles. Acupuncture is more effective for some types of pain, such as chronic pain, while acupressure is more effective for others, such as migraines.

Breathing and relaxation techniques

Breathing and relaxation techniques can help manage stress and anxiety. When we are stressed, our breathing becomes shallow and our heart rate increases. This can make us feel even more anxious. by using specific breathing techniques, we can help to control our stress response and reduce our anxiety.

Many different breathing techniques can be effective, so it is important to find one that works for you. Some people find that diaphragmatic breathing ( also known as belly breathing) is helpful. This involves breathing deeply into the belly so that the stomach expands. Other people find alternate nostril breathing to be helpful. This involves breathing in through one nostril and out through the other.

Relaxation Techniques

There are also many relaxation techniques that can be helpful in managing stress and anxiety. Some people find Progressive Muscle Relaxation to be helpful.

Progressive muscle relaxation is a technique that can be used to relieve stress and tension. The aim of this practice is to systematically relax all of the muscles in the body, one by one. This can be done by either tensing and then releasing the muscles, or by simply focusing on the sensation of the muscle relaxing.

There are many benefits to progressive muscle relaxation, including reducing stress, improving sleep, and reducing anxiety. This technique can be done anywhere, at any time, and does not require any special equipment. It is a simple and effective way to improve your overall well-being.

Education in stress management and back pain

There is a growing body of evidence that suggests that stress management can help to reduce the incidence and severity of back pain. In one study, it was found that a group of people who received education in stress management had significantly less back pain than a control group who did not receive the same education.

Other studies have shown similar results, indicating that stress management may be an effective tool in the prevention and treatment of back pain. If you are suffering from back pain, or are at risk for developing back pain, consider enrolling in a stress management program.

Stress is a normal psychological and physical reaction to the demands of life. A certain amount of stress can be beneficial, motivating us to meet deadlines and excel in our work. However, when stress becomes overwhelming, it can have negative effects on our physical and mental health.

Fortunately, there are many things we can do to manage stress and its effects. Education is one of the most important tools we have for managing stress. By learning about what stress is and how it affects us, we can develop strategies for dealing with it.

Massage therapy for back pain

Massage therapy is a popular treatment for back pain. Studies have shown that massage can help reduce pain and improve function in people with chronic back pain.

Massage therapy has a number of benefits for people with back pain, including:

-Reducing pain

-Improving function

-Improving range of motion

-Decreasing muscle stiffness

-Decreasing muscle spasms

-Improving circulation


Studies have shown that stretching can be an effective way to promote mobility and relieve spasms. There are a variety of different stretching exercises that can be done, and it is important to find the ones that work best for you. Some people find that static stretched exercises are the most effective, while others prefer dynamic stretching exercises.

If you are unsure of how to start stretching, there are many resources available online or from your local library. You can also speak with a physical therapist or other health professional to find the best exercises for you.

Yoga and Pilates

This can help relieve pain and stress. Certain yoga poses can help relieve back pain and improve strength, flexibility and balance. Yoga is useful for reducing stress and can help with the psychological aspects of pain.

Aquatic or aquatic therapy

Aquatic therapy can be very helpful in relieving pain and improving mobility in people with chronic low back pain. There is no resistance to movement in the water and the water is calming, comforting and relaxing for the body.

How can back pain be prevented? 

Although some people say that injuring your back can’t be avoided, most doctors agree that common causes of back pain can be prevented by following a few lifestyle changes: 

Exercise – You should consult your doctor before starting an exercise program because some exercises, such as high-impact aerobics and weight lifting, can make back pain worse. Other exercises, such as swimming, walking and cycling, can help your overall health and strengthen your back. However, exercise should not be avoided as it helps improve overall health.

Lumbar support belts – Some people who work in jobs that lift heavy objects on a daily basis need to use lumbar support and back training in the workplace to learn how to prevent lifting injuries. 

Don’t wear high heels.  That type of shoe can increase the strain in the spine.

When you stand, keep your head up and stomach in. If you stand for long periods of time, place one foot on a stool and alternate the weight frequently.

Sit in a chair with good lumbar support. Maintain good posture, sit up straight and keep both feet flat on the floor. Do a lumbar roll with a rolled up towel to place behind your lower back when you’re driving or sitting for long periods of time. 

Use correct body posture when lifting objects. Keep items close to your body. Keep your back straight and your head up with your stomach tucked in. 

Do not lift too heavy objects. Ask for help when lifting awkward or heavy objects. Don’t lean forward to pick something up, but rather bend your knees and lift yourself off your knees. 

In conclusion, back pain can be difficult to treat, but there are many options out there for you. Specialists find new research every day. You can take care of your back by making good lifestyle changes and eliminating or reducing the amount of stress in your life. By maintaining good posture, using proper lifting techniques, and learning how to avoid back pain, you can prevent further back injuries.

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