When back pain lasts for three or more months, it is considered chronic back pain. Generally, such kinds of back pain come and go. It can be very uncomfortable and frustrating as it affects your overall routine.
Be it a child or an older person, back pain can hit anyone for different reasons – injuries, harmful physical activities, or specific medical conditions, to name a few. With age, the chances of developing chronic back pain increase.
Now, back pains are categorised into two parts. One is lower back pain, and the other is upper back pain. While issues with the lower back can arise because of problems in discs between the vertebrae, spinal cord, lumbar spine, muscles, pelvic and abdominal organs, and ligaments near the spine, the upper back pain can be caused by inflammation, chest tumours, and aorta disorders.
Here’s a comprehensive guide on common causes behind chronic back pain and some effective treatments.
Common causes behind chronic back pain
Our back is made of several structures that include ligaments, muscles, discs, bones, tendons, and more. They all work together to support your body and help it move with ease. If even anyone of this gets damaged, you feel the pain in your back.
In most cases, this pain is about age. However, in some cases, it may be related to a past injury or some medical conditions. The following are the most common reasons for back pain:
Strain, injuries, and tension lead to back pain and it can be with any of the structures in your back, for example, damaged discs, fractures, muscle spasms, strained ligaments, etc.
This is the most common cause of all, and it arises when you try to lift something too heavy, or you lift anything in the wrong way. Abrupt body movement can also result in a strained back.
Several structural problems like arthritis, sciatica, or osteoporosis can result in chronic back pain. Let us discuss them in a bit of detail:
- Osteoarthritis: While this damages hip joints, lower back, and other parts, arthritis can also narrow down space around the spinal cord, which is also known as spinal stenosis.
- A building or damaged discs: Our spine is cushioned with discs, and when any of such discs are harmed, nerves experience tremendous pressure that leads to back pain.
- Osteoporosis: When our bones become porous and brittle, it increases the chances of developing a fracture. This disorder is known as osteoporosis, which causes severe back pain.
- Unusual spine curvatures: When our spine curves abnormally, it results in back pain. You can consider the example of scoliosis, where patients experience severe back pain due to the spine curved to the side.
Poor sitting, walking, and sleeping postures can cause back pain. Surprisingly, some daily activities can also be responsible for it. Such activities can be sneezing, over-stretching, bending, pulling, pushing, and driving.
Specific medical ailments
Back pain can also be a result of:
- Spine cancer
- Sleeping disorders
- Cauda equina syndrome
What are the symptoms of back pains?
Back pain ranges from shooting to aching. Sometimes, patients also experience shooting, stabbing or burning sensations in the upper and lower back. If overlooked, the pain may radiate down your hips, thighs, legs, and it will get severe with time. As a result, you will not be able to carry out even a simple activity like bending, walking, or standing with comfort.
When to see a doctor for back pain
If properly looked after, it’s possible to get rid of back pain without surgical or injection-based treatments. However, if you experience anything from the below-given list, you should see a doctor as soon as possible.
- If the back pain makes your legs numb and your body is feeling weak
- If it lasts for a few weeks
- When the pain radiates down the legs, significantly below your knees
- If you notice weight loss
- If the problem does not go even with the proper self-care measures
Some back pain cases are nothing but red flags. You must seek immediate medical assistance as they can be life-threatening. The following is the list of those:
- If the back pain leads to new bladder or bowel disorders
- If you experience severe fever
- If the back pain is sourced by a fall, trauma (like a car accident), back or other injuries.
Mostly, specific home remedies and proper body workouts provide relief from back pain. However, some conditions may need medical treatment.
What are the home remedies?
You can apply an ice pack or hot compress on the affected area for relief. Plus, you can buy some over-the-counter medications for quick comfort.
Pain Experts of Arizona recommends moving around as it reduces pain and eases stiffness. This option is excellent, significantly so when your muscles are weakening.
What are the medical treatments?
Doctors will suggest some medications or physical therapies if home treatments do not work. Some back pain conditions need both treatments and therapies.
Medications like codeine or hydrocodone can be useful in such situations. However, these are narcotic drugs and need a proper prescription from a certified doctor.
If you are looking for non-surgical treatments, then the following options can be considered.
Non-surgical remedies for chronic back pain
This is the first treatment you should try to ease chronic back pain. For the best results, follow the proper workout routine with the guidance of a certified physical therapist. Remember, the same therapy may not be useful for all conditions. It must be followed depending on your particular situation and symptoms. Once one treatment is set, all you have to do is follow the routine rigorously.
Chronic pain is frustrating. It may lead to depression, and medication can be considered to keep yourself motivated. You can consult with our experts for exact recommendations on yoga, Thai Chi and other mind and body relaxation techniques.
Experts offer several injection-based treatments for chronic back pain. However, this is only recommended when the source of the back pain is known. This option only reduces the problem for a particular time, and it’s not a long-term remedy. Therefore, you should not consider this option for a permanent solution.
Treatments like acupuncture, body massages, nerve simulations, laser therapy, and several spine treatments are great options for treating chronic back pain.
Proper diet plan
When you follow a diet plan that is rich in trans fats, specific minerals, and refined sugars, you experience comfort from back pain. The reason behind this is such foods have excellent anti-inflammation properties. You can have a word with your doctor to know if your existing diet is causing you pain. If yes, then you can make the required modifications.
Change in lifestyle
You must quickly adapt to chronic pain and make certain modifications in your daily routine. Do not lift incorrectly or anything heavy to prevent straining. Listen to your body as it signals when it experiences pain. Try to avoid such activities as continuing the same may worsen the case. If you are a smoker, try to quit it as it delays healing and boosts pain.
Back pain is a common condition and, in very few cases, it becomes chronic. With time, back pain resolves itself, however, if it is chronic, you may have to consult with a doctor. Specific therapies, injections, and prescribed medications can help you out.
The good news is many practices can help you prevent such types of pains. Daily workouts, proper diet plans, stretches, and yoga strengthens your back and muscles and reduces the chances of developing back pain.
Ahdev Kuppusamy, MD is an anaesthesiologist and interventional pain specialist.