Upper, Middle, and Lower Back Pain
Back pain usually occurs in the lower back but can occur in the upper back as well. The pain may be aggravated with movement or may radiate into the upper or lower extremities. Patients may also have limited range of motion and/or tenderness upon touch.
Generally back pain can be attributed to mechanical causes, most of which are relatively benign, although a small number of cases are due to more serious illness.Rare, more serious causes include cancer, infection, vascular problems, and damage to nervous tissue.
Common causes of back pain include degeneration (e.g. osteoarthritis), muscle strain, mechanical problems (e.g. a herniated disc), and vertebral fractures associated with osteoporosis.
Certain red flags indicate a more serious condition that may require emergency evaluation or surgery, including weakness, numbness or tingling, fever, weight loss, or problems with bowel or bladder control.
Back pain treatments can relieve the chronic pain experienced by 15-20% of people in the U.S. Back pain affects males and females equally and can occur at any age, with the majority of initial episodes taking place between ages 20-40.
Diagnosis leading to productive back pain treatment is done by a doctor through a comprehensive history and physical examination.
Additionally, a full neurological work-up is often performed to identify compressed nerves from a herniated disc.
Supplemental imaging is usually reserved for symptoms that persist beyond several weeks despite conservative treatment or if a physician suspects a serious pathology.
Depending on your particular back pain, the doctor may order an X-ray if a bone infection or tumor is suspected or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) or computed tomography (CT) scan if disc herniation is suspected.
The goals of back pain treatments are to relieve symptoms and improve functioning. Back pain treatments range from conservative management to surgery depending on the cause and severity of the pain.
Back pain typically resolves on its own within weeks with conservative treatment. More conservative back pain treatments include:
- Pain-relieving medications are the initial treatment of choice for back pain. These can include over-the-counter pain medicines such as acetaminophen (Tylenol™), ibuprofen (Advil™), or muscle relaxants
Physical Therapy and exercise helps strengthen the back to avoid future injury and speed the recovery process.
Lifestyle adjustments to avoid aggravating movements and reduce body weight may help reduce back pain.
Alternative therapies such as massage, yoga, and acupuncture may provide benefit to some patients.
When conservative measures suggested by your doctor for back pain are ineffective, local anesthetics, steroids, or opiates can often be injected at the site of pain to block the conduction of pain signals to the brain.
Back pain due to disc herniation may require surgical intervention via spinal fusion or discectomy, the removal of herniated tissue, which may require referral to a specialized surgeon.
Tobacco, alcohol and drugs, poor diet, and lack of regular physical activity have been implicated as risk factors for back pain.
Modifying these risk factors, avoiding certain repetitive motions such as bending and twisting or heavy lifting, and treating obesity and depression can help prevent back pain before it occurs.
If you are considering physical therapy for your chronic back pain, or would like to learn about how minimally invasive, non-surgical interventional pain procedures can help reduce your back pain, Contact Us!