Common Causes of Back Pain
Your back is a complex structure made of muscles, ligaments, tendons, fascia, bones, joints, nerves, and intervertebral discs that move and work together with every movement you make. When one part of the back is injured or not working properly, the rest of the system suffers, and you can lose strength, range of motion, and ability to perform normal daily activities. Back pain can be ‘acute,’ rapid onset and lasting days to weeks, ‘subacute’ pain lasts weeks to months, and ‘chronic’ pain, which persists greater than three months. Proper treatment of acute and subacute back pain is critical to prevent progressing to chronic back pain. Common causes of back pain are listed below.
- Poor posture and lack of movement: Sitting for long periods (i.e. desk job) places a lot of pressure on the spine and can contribute to chronic pain. Take a break every hour to get up and move around.
- Osteoarthritis of the spinal joints is a degenerative and usually age related condition that causes loss of cartilage in the joints.
- Inflammatory arthritis can be due to conditions such as ankylosing spondylitis, psoriatic arthritis, or spine arthritis associated with inflammatory bowel disease particularly back-based arthritis like osteoarthritis and spinal stenosis.
- Intervertebral disc: These are cartilage like cushions between the bones of the spine. A tear, herniation, bulge or rupture of the disc can cause pain. If the herniation is large enough it may cause sciatica (pain shooting down the leg) symptoms.
- Scoliosis: abnormal curvature and rotation of the spine can cause back pain.
- Overload injury: bending and lifting with improper mechanics can result in muscle strain, ligament sprain, or herniated intervertebral disc. Hypermobility syndromes may have increased risk.
- Osteoporosis: reduced bone density can increase the risk of a vertebral bone fracture, which often, but not always, causes pain.
- Myofascial dysfunction: a combination of weak and overly tight muscles can cause trigger points and muscle spasms.
- Trauma: Falls and car accidents can lead to a variety of back injuries.
- Infections: The spinal structures can be affected by bacteria, which will cause pain.
- Sacroiliac pain or sacroilitis: Pain from excessive or inadequate movement of the sacroiliac joint. Inflammatory arthritis, osteoarthritis and being pregnant can also cause this.
- Spinal stenosis: Narrowing of the spinal canal can place excessive pressure on the spinal cord or spinal nerves.
Risk Factors for Back Pain
You may have a higher risk of back pain if you:
- Have had a previous back injury
- Lead a sedentary lifestyle
- Do not exercise
- Suffer from obesity and excess weight
- Are an older age
- Are pregnant
- Suffer from certain genetic or medical conditions, i.e. scoliosis, inflammatory disease, hypermobility syndrome, fibromyalgia, osteoporosis
- Participate in repetitive strenuous activity in work or recreational activities
Symptoms of Back Pain
Back pain often goes away with time and rest, but other symptoms can crop up and lead to worsening effects. You should be sure to keep track of what you are experiencing and see a medical professional if you get worse or have any of the following symptoms:
- A recent injury, blow, or trauma to the back
- Difficulty urinating
- Fecal incontinence, or loss of control over bowel movements
- Inflammation or swelling on the back
- Numbness around the
- Pain down the legs and below the knees
- Persistent back pain
- Urinary incontinence
- Weight loss without trying
Diagnosing Your Back Pain
In case of serious issues, you may be required to go through several tests in order to identify and treat the problem. It is important to seek consultation on your back problems from a medical professional in order to make sure you catch more serious issues early.
- X-rays: These tests show the alignment of your bones, the location of breaks or fractures, and signs of arthritis.
- Bone Scans: Detect compression fractures, cancer, and other problems by injecting a tracer into the vein to look for increased activity.
- CT scan: Uses many x-ray images to create a more detailed 3D image of your bones and spine
- MRI imaging: Uses magnets to create 3D images of your spine. This includes a more detailed view of the soft tissues such as blood vessels, ligaments, muscles, nerves, spinal cord, and also bones and joints.
- Electromyography or EMG Measures: These tests will measure the electrical impulses produced by nerves to confirm nerve compressions by affected disks.
- Palpitation: touch, or a visual exam of the affected area.
- Blood and Urine Tests
Preventing Back Issues
- Stay Active: Move frequently and exercise in order to build body strength, maintain mobility, and keep your internal systems functioning properly.
- Aerobic Exercises: Aerobic exercise is moving all major body parts for an extended period of time. Examples include swimming, walking, biking, and running. Carefully guided aerobic exercises help build up heart health without risking making back pain worse. It is often made a part of physical therapy plan.
- Flexibility Training: Improves core flexibility and involves the spine, hips, and upper legs.
- Core-Strengthening Exercises: Strengthen the abdominal and back muscles to protect all parts of the back.
- Maintain a Healthy Body Weight: The more weight the back needs to carry, the higher the risk you have of developing back issues.
- Maintain a Healthy Posture
- Standing: Improperly distributing your weight in your abdominal area also increases the chances of back injury. Aim for a neutral pelvic stance with your head upright, back straight, head forward and spinally aligned, legs straight, and weight distributed evenly on both feet.
- Sitting: Don't forget your posture while sitting. Make sure your seat offers good support, keep your knees and hips level, and your feet should also be flat on the floor. For a desk, keep your elbows at 90 degree angles, your forearms horizontal, and sit upright at all times. When driving, try to avoid twisting to see your mirrors and take breaks on long drives to stretch your back out.
- Avoid Smoking: Smokers have a higher chance of suffering back injury due to the fact that nicotine damages arteries (the blood supply to your spine) and increases the risk of osteoporosis (low bone density that can result in fractures).
- Proper Lifting Mechanics: Use your legs to lift things, not your back. You must keep your back as straight (avoid rounding) as possible while maintaining balance by keeping your feet apart. Bend at the knees, holding the weight of what you're lifting close to your body, and straighten your legs without changing your position too much. You will always need to bend your back at least a little to lift things, but the key is using your legs for most of the work and avoid rounding the back. Which means avoiding strengthening your legs or twisting the whole lifting.
- Wear the Proper Shoes: Flatter shoes place less strain on your back.
- Sleep Properly: Sleep on a mattress that keeps your back straight. It should offer support for your spine, shoulders, and buttocks. Your pillows should also not force your neck at a steep angle.
Back Pain Self Care
- Hot and Cold Therapy: Ice or cold packs help relieve back discomfort or pain by combating inflammation. Place a barrier between your skin and the ice to avoid frostbite. Warm compresses help relieve inflammation by increasing the circulation to where they are applied and helping the muscles relax.
- At-Home Exercises: Exercises, inside and outside of the house, are important to improve posture, muscle strength, flexibility, and proper movement techniques.
- Yoga: A helpful form of exercise that can increase flexibility, relieve muscle pain, and reduce stress. Going through different yoga poses provides different benefits as they strengthen and stretch different parts of the body.
What Types Of Back Issues Are Treated At Garden State Pain & Orthopedics?
Our highly-trained specialists treat the full scope of back problems, from those caused by degenerative conditions such as osteoarthritis and spinal stenosis to nerve irritation and sciatica to injuries resulting from automobile or other accidents. Among the most common back issues we see in our practice are the following:
- Cervical radiculopathy (pinched nerve)
- Lumbar radiculopathy
- Torn or pulled muscles
- Lumbar disk compression or herniation
- Disk degeneration
- Slipped disc
- Persistent back or leg pain after spine surgery
Does Back Pain Relief Require Surgery?
No. Never before have there been more non-surgical options for remedying back pain. Not only does surgery involve considerable risks and extensive recovery time, it may not work. In fact, as many as 20 percent of patients who undergo back surgery require a second surgery within a decade.
What Non-Surgical Treatments Can Alleviate Chronic Back Pain?
At Garden State Pain & Orthopedics, we offer a full scope of the most advanced non-surgical treatments for all types of back pain. Like pain itself, our pain relief programs are highly individualized. Our doctors begin by taking a complete medical history and conducting a thorough examination. From here, a personalized pain relief program is created. Among the potential treatments are:
Lumbar Interlaminar or Transforaminal Epidural Steroid Injection
This injection uses image guided technology to precisely target irritated nerves or other persistent back pain.
Lumbar Facet Block
Vertebrae in your spine are connected by facet joints. A lumbar facet block is an injection that relieves pain and inflammation originating in the facets of your lower back.
Lumbar Radiofrequency Ablation
When lower back pain is caused by spinal joint pain due to arthritis or disk degeneration, radiofrequency ablation often helps. Radiofrequency energy is applied to specific nerves. This stops them from sending pain signals to your brain.
Spinal Cord Stimulation
A medical device is placed under your skin, sending a mild electrical current to nerves in the spine. The stimulation stops nerves from sending pain signals to the brain.
Intrathecal pain pump
An intrathecal pain pump is a small device that holds pain medication and pumps the medication into the intrathecal space of your spine. The pump is programmed to release medication on a specific schedule; you return to your doctor to get the pump refilled.