Back pain is one of the most common reasons people seek the care of a physician. There are many causes and symptoms, and most of the time the pain in your back can be treated without surgery.
The spine is made up of 24 bones, called vertebrae, which are stacked on top of one another. These bones connect to protect the spinal cord. The seven small vertebrae that begin at the base of the skull and form the neck comprise the cervical spine.
Your spinal cord and nerves travel through the spinal canal carrying messages between your brain and muscles. The intervertebral discs between your vertebrae are flexible, flat and round discs and are about a half-inch thick. They act as shock absorbers when you walk or run and allow motion between the vertebrae.
What causes back pain?
Anyone can develop back pain, however certain factors can increase your chances.
- Lack of exercise
- Excess weight
- Improper lifting
Pain can come on suddenly and last less than six weeks (acute), which may be caused by a fall, heavy lifting or sudden incorrect movement. Chronic pain is less common and can last more than three months. Conditions commonly linked to pain in the back include:
- Muscle or ligament strain from heavy lifting or a sudden movement
- Bulging or ruptured disc
- Skeletal irregularities
What are the symptoms of back pain?
- Muscle achiness in your back
- Shooting or stabbing pain
- Pain that radiates down your leg
- Limited flexibility or range of motion of the back
- In extreme cases, bowel or bladder problems
How is back pain diagnosed?
To determine the severity of your back pain your physician will ask you for a complete medical history, have you describe your symptoms and conduct a physical examination. An X-ray or MRI may be necessary to confirm the diagnosis and determine if there are other problems.
In most cases, pain will go away on it’s own with rest. Other nonsurgical treatment options include:
- Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen
- Narcotics prescribed by your physician
- Cortisone injections
- Physical therapy
- At home exercise and stretching
If your pain is caused by a chronic condition, surgery may be necessary and depends on your diagnosis.
How do you prevent back pain?
Motion, exercise and stretching is important to strengthen your back and prevent injury. Correct posture when sitting and correct movement when lifting is also important. It is also important to maintain a healthy weight.
Learn more about treatment options for neck and back pain at OrthoIndy.
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