From all the medical disorders or conditions that afflict us, one of the most common and debilitating is back pain. Back pain is caused by various medical disorders or conditions. Although the core of the problem may lie with the back itself it can also be a result of problems in another part of the body.
Causes of back pain
The most common reasons for back pain include:
Back pain may be caused due to stress or an injury to the muscles in the back. Injuries like this may include strain or sprain which can arise from constant pressure or stress on the back muscles. Something as common as being overweight can cause stress to the back muscles constantly. It can also be the result of pregnancy or after lifting an abnormally heavy weight.
A medical disorder affecting the bones in the back (such as osteoporosis), or an injury to the backbone (vertebral column) from an accident can result in back pain.
Several orthopedic disorders, such as arthritis, can also result in chronic back pain. The normal wear and tear that the backbones go through in the course of a person’s life also results in causing back pain. Some of these arthritic conditions are a result of ageing, injuries or vulnerability due to hereditary bone disorders.
Spinal nerve injuries
At times, the spinal nerves may be affected by a protruding inter-vertebral disc or even spinal stenosis, which causes the spinal canal to become narrow and pinch the nerves inside it.
A kidney infection, such as pyelonephritis or even a kidney stone results in chronic back pain.
Back pain may also be a result of inflammatory types of arthritis, spinal tumor (cancer which has spread from another part of the body) and infection to the intervertebral disc also result in back pain, although these are comparatively rarer.
Symptoms of back pain
The symptoms of back pain vary greatly, however there are several distinct symptoms that indicate the cause of the back pain as being a serious issue.
The commonly seen symptoms of back pain include:
- Recent injury
- Weight loss
- Prior cancer
- Incontinence of urine
There are several different symptoms that are also effective indicators towards back pain, such as:
- Back sprain/strain – Normally, back pain is seen originating after a session of heavy workout or physical activity (which involves twisting your back). This results in the muscles of the thighs, buttocks and the back to become sore and rigid. Certain areas may also pain when touched, which are called as ‘tender points’.
- Degenerative spinal arthritis – This causes back pain which makes the back stiff and painful, especially when bending your back. This is a steadily developing condition which takes several years to be felt.
- Fibromyalgia – Apart from back pain, the neck, shoulders, trunk. Knees and elbows also feel stiff and painful. The pain may be persistent or a frequently occurring ache with the worst of the stiffness felt in the morning.
- Inflammatory arthritis – Arthritis, such as ankylosing spondylitis and similar conditions, may also result in lower back pain. This is often accompanied by a stiff and sore neck and chest often with a feeling of constant fatigue.
- Osteoporosis – This bone disorder results in weakening the bones by thinning their matrix, which results in them to develop fractures easily. Mostly seen in postmenopausal women, this disorder causes the vertebrae to become compressed and result in a fractures vertebra.
- Spinal cancer – A cancer in the spinal column or a nearby part of the body often results in chronic pain. This is mostly felt when lying flat on the back.
- Slipped disc – An intervertebral disc may protrude abnormally and cause severe lower back pain. This is felt to become worse when bending down or twisting the back.
- Spinal stenosis – Weakness, numbness and pain are felt in the legs and back due to this. The pain worsens while walking or standing and lessens when you sit down or leaning forward.
Diagnosis of back pain
Initially, the diagnosis of back pain is performed mainly through a physical checkup and a perusal of your medical history by the doctor. The physical exam requires thorough checking of the spine and back muscles which help to determine the spots that are aching, weak, stiff or numb.
These are the additional tests that help the doctor to pinpoint the cause of the back pain:
- X-ray tests
- Blood test
- Urine test
- MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging)
- CT (Computerized Tomography) scan
- Nerve reflexes tests
- Bone scan
Treatments for back pain
Most cases of back pain are not serious and can be treated effectively with:
- Bed rest – If the pain is not severe.
- Medicines – Painkillers and anti-inflammatory medicinal drugs.
- Muscle Relaxants
- Hot/Cold Compress
The doctor will advise you best on the duration of the treatment, according to individual cases.
In case the back pain is severe and the cause is known then the treatment mainly focuses on treating the cause of such back pain, which effectively provides relief from the base level.
It is highly advisable to consult an experienced doctor/physician or orthopedic specialist in case you experience back pain for proper diagnosis and effective treatment.