Back Pain 101

Back Pain 101

December 27, 2013

What Is Back Pain?

Back pain is one of the most common physical complaints that people bring to their doctors. According to the American Association of Family Physicians, back pain is the fifth most common reason that people visit a physician, with 90% of the adult population experiencing back pain at some point in their lives, and 50% suffering from it at least once a year.

Back pain can be chronic or acute, mild or intense, temporary or lingering. Even though back pain is very common, it can be a troubling condition that can prevent you from working, moving normally, and generally enjoying yourself.

What Are The Major Symptoms of Back Pain?

Back pain comes in many forms, from a dull and persistent ache to sharp, stabbing pains to a burning sensation. Many people also experience numbness, tingling or weakness as well as general discomfort. Because back pain can be caused by injury, infection or disease in any part of the muscles, nerves, tendons, and bones in the spine, back pain has a tendency to radiate out and affect other parts of the body as well. Many people experience uncomfortable sensations or pain in their arms and legs as well, while pain in the upper back can involve the shoulders and sometimes be accompanied with headaches.

What Causes Back Pain?

Back pain includes a wide range of conditions, and therefore a similarly broad set of causes.
Back pain generally falls into four categories, defined by what part of the back that the pain
originates from:

1. Neck pain, which involves the cervical spine;
2. Middle back pain, which comes from problems with the thoracic spine;
3. Lower back pain, the most common form of back pain, involving the lumbar spine;
4. Tailbone pain, which comes from the sacral spine and can also involve the pelvis.

Luckily, most incidents of back pain (up to 98% according to the AAFP) have no major underlying pathology, meaning there is no serious cause beyond a mild injury or inflammation. Patients with no root cause for their back pain are generally diagnosed with nonspecific
acute back pain.

What Are The Treatment Options for Back Pain?

While most causes of back pain are benign, it is important to get an accurate diagnosis of what is causing it so that it can be treated appropriately. It’s always important to rule out a major underlying illness. If there is no major root illness or injury behind your back pain, then back pain is usually caused by muscle strains, muscle spasms and muscular imbalances in the back.

Over-the-counter anti-inflammatory drugs can reduce the pain and swelling temporarily, and heat therapy and massage can also provide relief. For long-term treatment options that will prevent back pain from recurring, home exercise therapy can strengthen the muscles in the back to help prevent injuries and provide more support for the nerves and spine.

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