Back pain has many more than ten causes. However, ten are frequently observed in pain management, and fortunately, treatment options are available for each. Here is an overview:
DISCS CAN BE A FACTOR IN BACK PAIN
- Herniated or Slipped Disc
A herniated disc can occur in any part of the spine. The disc occurs when it slips out of place or becomes damaged and presses on a nerve. Pain or a numbing sensation may result.
Medical technological advancements have shown RFA, or Radiofrequency Ablation, to be a long-term pain relief solution over injections or nerve blocks. The great news is that more than 70% of patients treated with RFA experience pain relief.
- Bulging Disc
These are typically age-related and affected by multiple discs. Imagine letting the air out of a tire; the tire bulges as it deflates.
Over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medications may be helpful when experiencing a flare-up. Steroid injections and physical therapy may also be an option for significant nerve pain. A medically prescribed exercise routine may be another choice.
- Degenerative Disc Disease
This condition is from a damaged disc that causes pain. The pain can range from mildly uncomfortable to disabling. Degenerative disc disease is also caused by the natural wearing down of the disks between vertebrae.
RFA (described above in Herniated Disc) is a valuable medical technology in managing degenerative disc disease pain. Bracing may also be an option.
AGE CAN BE A FACTOR IN BACK PAIN
- Inflamed Sacroiliac Joint
The sacroiliac joints are located where the lower spine and pelvis meet. The pain from inflammation can shoot through the buttocks and down the legs. Causes may occur from an injury, arthritis, or even an infection. Stair climbing or standing for long periods can exacerbate the pain.
Standard treatment for inflammation of the sacroiliac joint is typically physical therapy, OTC medications, and injections.
- Spinal Stenosis
The most common cause of spinal stenosis is the wear and tear of joints during aging, called osteoarthritis. Other causes may
include injury, tumor, or herniated disc.
Spinal stenosis occurs when the space inside the backbone shrinks and puts pressure on the spinal cord and nerves. Because it is often found in the lower back and the neck, symptoms may include numb neck and cramping in the legs.
A pain management physician may recommend steroid injections or more medically advanced technology like SCS or Spinal Cord Stimulation. In SCS treatment, a small device is placed under the skin to send a mild current to the spinal cord. The pulse stimulates the nerves in the area where the pain is felt.
This is a broad term for several conditions of spinal degeneration or regular wear on the spine.
In advanced cases, the spinal cord becomes involved. It includes the disks or cushions between the vertebrae and the joints between the bones. Over time these changes can compress one or more of the nerve roots.
Fortunately, spondylosis is relatively common and manageable via NSAIDs or diet. Foods like coffee, sugar, salt, spicy, and red meat should be avoided to help reduce inflammation. Equally good options are high in fiber, antioxidants, and even a Mediterranean diet.
Arthritis is a degenerative disease that affects the bones, causing them to weaken and ache. It often causes stiffness and pain in the joints, making it difficult to move quickly and perform everyday tasks. Arthritis is often genetic and sometimes the result of an injury.
Unfortunately, there is no cure for arthritis. However, many treatment options are available to help manage the discomfort, pain, and how it affects the quality of life. Some non-surgical treatment options include OTC medications, physical therapy, exercise, a healthy diet, and weight control. There are also newer technology options like regenerative therapy and medical cannabis.
- Pinched Nerve
This occurs from excessive pressure on a nerve from bone, cartilage, or muscle causing pain or numbness. It may happen in just about any area of the body. An example is carpal tunnel syndrome, where swollen tendons compress the median nerve. In a herniated disc, the swollen tissue may be bone or cartilage.
Conservative treatment is resting the affected area, along with OTC medication. Most people recover in a few days.
Injuries are unpredictable and unwanted, so it is challenging to plan for one. Minor injuries may be treated at home with the RICE method (Rest/Ice/Compression/Elevation). Damage may be avoided by wearing proper footwear, securing rugs in the house and office, and installing adequate lighting to prevent falls. Daily exercise will keep the musculoskeletal system strong and healthy. Moreover, never text while driving!
Traumatic injuries require immediate attention. Time is critical for treatment. If experiencing a fracture, the best action is to be seen by a medical professional as soon as possible.
Personal lifestyle can significantly contribute to back pain, particularly in the neck and lower back. Digital technology commonly causes us to sit in awkward positions on chairs, couches, or even in bed. As a result, texting can be particularly stressful on the neck by placing additional weight on the neck and shoulders. Correct posture provides spine support to avoid discomfort.
A jolting life event can place the body into spasms in the lower back. Yoga, meditation, and OTC medications may provide relaxation relief.
A FINAL THOUGHT ON BACK PAIN
Lastly, pain is not normal and is, in most cases, treatable. As a matter of fact, pain lasting more than two or three days deserves the attention of a physician to ensure safety. In most cases, surgery is a last resort; a Pain Management physician has multiple resources to assist in managing pain non-surgically or with minimally invasive technology.
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