Back pain is one of those inevitabilities of being an adult. Nearly all of us will have experienced some form of back pain at one time or another, but what causes it, and how can it be treated?
There are many causes of back pain, and many different types of treatment from physiotherapy to surgery. A new type of surgery that is becoming more common, is laser spine surgery such as that offered by Progressive Spine.
Let’s have a look at some of the causes and treatments of back pain.
Types of Back Pain
Back pain usually means pain anywhere from the top of your neck all the way down to your hips. It is most common to injure your lower back, often from lifting something in the wrong way or that is too heavy, but you can injure any part of your spine.
Back pain can either be acute, which means it happens very suddenly and is often intensely painful, or chronic, which is pain that is over a long period of time.
Some back pain will go away on its own with over the counter remedies, but for some people the pain will be longer lasting.
Non-Specific Back Pain
The most common type of back pain has no specific cause, it can be either chronic or acute, and often comes from poor posture. This type of back pain will sometimes be worse if you’re sitting up or when you’re laying down, and sometimes hurts more the more you move.
Over the counter pain relief usually helps, and the pain goes away on its own over time.
A slipped disc is a fairly common back injury, this happens when the disc of cartilage that is between your spinal vertebrae bulges out and pushes on the nerves leading to intense pain.
You may not know you have slipped a disc, it is not always painful, but if it is pushing on nerves, then it will cause pain.
Signs of a slipped disc are back pain, difficulty bending or sitting down, numbness or ‘pins and needles’ in your arms or legs.
Slipped discs can usually be treated conservatively with painkillers and rest, however some will have to be surgically repaired if more conservative treatment doesn’t work.
Spinal stenosis is more commonly seen in people over sixty years old. As we age, our bones change shape as they wear down. In cases of spinal stenosis, the spinal vertebrae surrounding the spinal cord start to narrow, which compresses the spinal cord.
Spinal stenosis is quite painful, and can also cause a numbing sensation in the legs, and the legs can also become weaker.
Spinal Surgery is normally needed to widen the narrowing to relieve the pressure on the spinal cord.
Cauda Equina Syndrome
Cauda equina syndrome is similar to spinal stenosis, and happens when a bundle of nerves located in the lower back become squashed or compressed. It is very rare, but when it does happen it is extremely painful.
Signs of cauda equina syndrome include sciatica, urinary and faecal incontinence or being unable to pass urine or faeces.
Cauda equina syndrome usually needs urgent surgery to correct.
Back pain can also be caused by an infection in that area, a fractured bone, and some type of cancers.
When to See Your Doctor
You should see a doctor for any back pain that is ongoing, or sudden acute pain. If you experience any numbness, or difficulty going to the toilet, you should see help immediately.
If you are at all concerned, make an appointment with your doctor.
Once the cause of your back pain is established, your doctor can explain the right course of treatment to you.
There are a variety of treatments available, depending on what the cause of your back pain is.
Sometimes all you will need is a course of painkillers until the pain recedes. Sometimes a visit to a physiotherapist is warranted to help strengthen muscles, and fix any posture problems you may have.
Surgery is sometimes needed to correct problems, such as cauda equina syndrome, or if you have suffered a fracture to your vertebrae.
Long term pain can also be detrimental to your mental well-being, being in chronic pain can lead to depression and other mental illnesses. Your doctor will be able to discuss this with you, and medication for this alongside psychological help may be warranted.
If you have any concerns about back pain, it is always wise to see the advice of your doctor, and always talk to them first before embarking on any treatment.