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Back Pain: Is Your Spine to Blame?

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Back pain can be caused by a variety of different factors. Because of this, diagnosing its exact cause can be a challenge. Furthermore, different conditions often share the same symptoms. As such, it is crucial to detect the real cause of the pain and other symptoms in order to plan the best course of treatment. 

Some back pain is caused by spine problems. However, not all spine problems manifest the same symptoms. The intensity and manageability of symptoms differ from person to person, even if they may have the same condition. For instance, one person with a herniated disc may feel debilitating pain while another may not feel any symptom at all. 

On the other hand, you may also feel excruciating pain just because of a muscle strain. This means that when a person feels extreme pain, it does not automatically signify that they have a spine problem.

In this post, we’ll give you a closer look at the most common spine-related pain and symptoms to give you an idea whether it’s time to get yourself checked for any spine problem.

Why Does Your Back Hurt Often?

Back pain is among the most common reasons why people seek medical attention. At least 8 out of 10 people complain of back pain at some point in their lives. 

Your back is subjected to different kinds of stress day in and day out. Athletes and those who lead an active lifestyle often expose their backs to sudden jolts and twists. Meanwhile, those who spend long hours sitting on a desk tend to slouch and maintain poor posture. All of these can injure any of the overlapping and interconnected structures surrounding and composing the spine. 

In general, back pain is associated with injuries of the following anatomical structures:

  • The muscles surrounding and supporting the spine.
  • The nerves that exit the spinal canal, including those that go to the limbs.
  • The facet joints that connect the spine along the vertebrae.
  • The intervertebral discs that serve as shock absorbers for the spinal bones.
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Where and Why Does Your Spine or Back Hurt?

Because these spinal components and structures are too close to each other and they largely intertwine, it can be difficult for the brain to distinguish where the pain is. However, pain in the lower back (lumbar region) and neck (cervical region) are the most common complaints and causes of missed work days. 

The neck and lower back are prone to strain because they support your weight as you move, twist, or bend. The muscle fibers around these areas can be abnormally stretched or torn, causing strain. Meanwhile, sprains happen when the ligaments are stretched beyond normal.

Moreover, sprains and strains can also cause further problems as the soft tissues around them get inflamed. The inflammation can also result in spasms. 

In some cases, spinal pain can go beyond back pain. Pain coming from a spinal issue can radiate into the arms, legs, rib cage, and anterior chest.

What Are the Symptoms of Spine Problems?

As back pain itself does not always mean you have a spinal issue, it is necessary to watch out for other symptoms, including:

  • Stiffness, particularly in the lower back
  • Restricted range of motion
  • Difficulty maintaining good or normal posture
  • Muscle spasms when in motion or at rest
  • Reduced or loss of motor function
  • Difficulty tiptoeing or walking on heels
  • Pain that persists for more than 2 weeks

What Are the Most Common Spine Conditions?

Back pain can happen when something is off with the way your spinal muscles, nerves, joints, and discs fit and move together. The doctor will perform physical and imaging tests to see if you have any of the following common spine conditions:

1. Slipped or Herniated Discs

In this condition, the soft tissue in the discs between the spinal joints has protruded. This is caused by excessive wear and tear. It causes lower back or hip pain when the herniation presses nerves. 

2. Bulging Discs

Bulging discs are similar to herniated discs, but they are not as protruded. They only cause discomfort when they push on a nerve root.

3. Degenerative Disc Disease

The spinal discs serve as the shock absorbers between the spine’s vertebrae. When they shrink or tear over time, the bones rub together, causing pain and discomfort.

4. Sacroiliac Joint Inflammation and Wear

The sacroiliac joint lies where the spine and pelvis meet. While it is not meant for movement, it is an important joint as it moves the load from the upper body to the lower body. This joint can get worn after an injury or because of infection, arthritis, and even pregnancy. As it gets worn out, it will swell and get inflamed, causing pain. 

5. Spinal Stenosis

In this condition, the spinal canal narrows, adding pressure on the nerves and spine. This can cause your legs and shoulders to feel numb. This is common for people over 60 years of age.

6. Cervical Radiculopathy

This refers to pinched nerves, which are typically caused by a herniated disc or bone spur.

7. Spondylolisthesis

This occurs when the spine slips forward, usually in the lower back area. 

8. Scoliosis

Also known as the curvature of the spine, severe cases of scoliosis can cause back pain and discomfort.

9. Vertebral Fracture

Trauma and osteoporosis can weaken and break the bones of the spine.

10. Accidents

Car accidents, falls, sports injuries, and other incidents, can damage the spine.

How Are Spine Problems Diagnosed?

To determine the source of your back pain, the doctor will learn as much as they can about your medical history and symptoms. They will also conduct a physical exam to try detecting the source of the pain. 

Moreover, diagnostic and imaging tests including X-rays, MRI scan, and diagnostic injections are often done to locate the specific cause of the symptoms. 

How Do You Treat Spinal Problems?

Back pain typically resolves with ample rest coupled with other non-invasive treatments, such as home care and remedies. However, there are times when medical treatment and surgery are required, especially if the pain is caused by a spine problem.

Home Treatment for Back and Spine Problems

The doctor will first prescribe and recommend at-home remedies to relieve discomfort. These include the use of over-the-counter (OTC) pain relievers, application of hot or cold compress, and rest.

Medical Treatment for Back and Spine Problems

If symptoms persist after following home treatment measures, then your doctor will move on to recommend non-invasive or minimally invasive medical treatment options. These include:

  • Prescription medications. If the pain does not respond to OTC pain relievers, then the doctor may prescribe prescription painkillers, as well as muscle relaxants.
  • Physical therapy. Depending on the condition, physical therapy can help alleviate symptoms and restore flexibility and movement.
  • Injections. Cortisone, an anti-inflammatory drug, can be injected into the epidural space to reduce nerve root inflammation. Meanwhile, botox injections paralyze sprained muscles in spasm. PRP therapy, which involves the injection of platelet-rich plasma directly into the injured tissue, tendon, ligament, muscle, or joint to promote healing.
  • Traction. Here, pulleys and weights are used to stretch your back. It can help herniated discs move back into their original positions.

Surgical Treatment for Back and Spine Problems

Surgery is the last resort for solving back and spine problems. However, it may be needed if your symptoms do not improve or are getting worse after non-invasive and minimally invasive treatments have been done. Persistent pain and nerve compression can drastically affect your daily life, so surgery is highly considered for severe cases.

Some of the surgical procedures for spine disorders that cause pain include:

  • Fusion. In this procedure, two vertebrae are fused together using a bone graft. 
  • Artificial disc insertion. Here, an artificial disc is inserted to serve as the shock absorber between two vertebrae.
  • Discectomy. If a portion of a spinal disc irritates or puts pressure on a nerve, it can be removed through a discectomy.
  • Partial removal or a vertebrae. Similar to a discectomy, a portion of the vertebrae may also be removed if it is pressing against a nerve or the spinal cord.

How to Know If Your Back Problem is a Medical Emergency

If you’re wondering if your back pain warrants a visit to the ER, watch out for these signs:

  • Sharp pain rather than a dull pain or discomfort
  • Pain that radiates from the back to the glutes or legs
  • Sudden limb weakness
  • Numbness in the glute and/or groin area
  • Incontinence

If you do not experience these emergency symptoms, you’re in luck. However, it is not wise to ignore persistent or chronic back pain. The best way to ensure proper diagnosis and treatment is to visit a pain care specialist.

Get Expert Pain Care & Management in Florida

Back pain is very common, but it’s not something you need to endure. Our pain care specialist in Florida, Dr. Luis Escobar, have the qualifications and years of experience required in expert pain management. 

Pain Care Specialists of Florida offers a range of comprehensive pain management services and procedures. We can customize a pain management plan specific to your diagnosis, and make sure that you get the ideal treatments for pain relief.

To get started on your way to pain recovery, you may contact us and visit any of our locations:

You may also call our pain and auto injury clinic at 954-322-8586 to learn more about our services and schedule a consultation.

The material contained on this site is for informational purposes only and DOES NOT CONSTITUTE THE PROVIDING OF MEDICAL ADVICE, and is not intended to be a substitute for independent professional medical judgment, advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare providers with any questions or concerns you may have regarding your health.

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