Are you experiencing lower back pain? You’re not alone. About half of Americans experience back pain every year. Let our trusted pain doctors explain to you the different types of back pain, its causes, and various treatment options.
The lower back, or lumbar spine, is prone to injury and pain. It is a complex structure composed of bones, nerves, and muscles that are interconnected and provide support to the body. Your lower back supports your upper body weight and allows you the mobility you need to walk, twist and bend.
Depending on what is causing your back pain, you may feel a specific sharp pain, a widespread pain, a dull ache, stiffness, cramping, numbness, or radiating pain. Certain activities or movements may make the pain worse or better. Some people’s back pain may even come and go.
Acute lower back pain usually results from an injury - such as an accident or sports injury. Such injuries typically affect the low back’s muscles, ligaments, and/or discs. When your body begins the healing process for a back injury, your body initiates the inflammatory response. Inflammation can cause pain. Acute low back pain can last a few days to a few weeks. The pain should gradually subside over that time. If your pain lasts more than a few weeks or if the pain is severe, you should consider seeing a doctor.
If you back pain lasts longer than 3 months, this is usually considered to be chronic. A medical examination is needed to determine the source of pain and to develop a treatment plan. A back pain specialist will be able to help you accomplish this.
There are two main categories of lower back pain: mechanical and radicular. Mechanical low back pain is a common type and occurs when abnormal amounts of stress are placed on the back (i.e. improper lifting or poor posture). Radicular pain, on the other hand, occurs when a spinal nerve root is compressed or injured. It can cause sharp pain and/or numbness in a leg.
Other types of back pain can occur from other diseases, deformity, and tumors. It can even occur if a disease or condition affects internal organs (i.e. kidney stones).
Common injuries and conditions that can cause or complicate lower back pain include a herniated disc, osteoarthritis, spinal stenosis, muscle strain, ligament sprain, degenerative disc disease, spondylolisthesis, scoliosis, and trauma.
Visit your doctor or back pain specialist to determine the cause of your back pain. Depending on the cause and your other health factors, your doctor will prescribe a customized treatment plan for you. Common back pain treatment options include: rest, ice/heat, stretching, muscle relaxants, pain medications, topical pain relief creams, injectable anti-inflammatories, physical therapy, and surgery.