Back pain is a prevalent issue experienced by individuals across all age ranges. According to recent studies, approximately 80% of all Americans will have back pain at least once in their lives, with 50% having more than one episode within a year. The factors that contribute to the condition are myriad, with some being self-inflicted due to poor lifestyle habits, accidents, muscle strains or sports injuries. Others include arthritis, osteoporosis and hereditary conditions.
Usually, the symptoms range in intensity from mild to severe. Luckily, there are measures you can take to prevent or relieve most back pain episodes to get you moving freely and smoothly again. It is important to discuss your symptoms as well as the recommended treatments with your doctor to determine the most appropriate treatment plan for your circumstance.
Symptoms of Back Pain
Signs and symptoms of back pain will depend on the condition that causes the problem. In most situations, a person will experience:
Low back pain – the low back region is the area behind the stomach from the rib cage down to the pelvis, also referred to as the lumbar region. Low back pain is a major cause of lost days of work as well as the common reason for doctor visits. The symptoms vary from a distant pain that develops gradually to a sudden or continuous pain felt below the waistline.
Other symptoms include:
- Pain and stiffness in the lower back and hip area, especially in the morning or after prolonged inactivity.
- Lower back may be sore to touch. The pain could get worse with movement, and it radiates into the buttocks, the back of the thigh, leg, foot, or to the groin.
- New onset of pain, numbness, or weakness in one or both legs that causes difficulty when standing or walking.
- Pain that is often accompanied by muscle spasms surrounding the spine and causing a stiff back.
- In the case of sciatica, individuals may experience tingling, numbness, and muscle weakness.
- Pain in your chest or high up in your back
- Pain down your legs and below the knees
- Loss of bladder control
- Inability to pass urine
- Loss of bowel control
Treatment of Back Pain
A common mistake that most people make is that they endure the pain and don’t get to see a doctor when experiencing back pain. If the pain doesn’t start to improve within a few weeks or if it stops you from doing your day-to-day activities, you need to see a healthcare professional.
Scheduling an appointment to see a doctor allows for a fast diagnosis so you can receive a proper treatment to manage the condition. The treatment of back pain depends on its cause, location and severity of your back pain. When you go to see a health provider, he/she will perform a physical examination and ask questions about your symptoms to effectively diagnose and determine the appropriate treatment procedure.
The primary treatments for back pain include:
Medication: Treatment can include pain medications and anti-inflammatories such as aspirin, acetaminophen, ibuprofen and naproxen sodium. Muscle relaxants and topical pain relievers may also be used for muscle pain.
Heat and Cold: Applying heat increases oxygen supply to the affected area and relaxes muscles while a cold compress numbs the affected nerves and reduces pain and swelling.
Physical Therapy: Physical therapy and physiotherapy can be administered to improve flexibility and extension of the back muscles to help relieve back pain or regain motion. Once the pain is relieved, a physical therapist may design a rehabilitation program to prevent future injury.
Alternative treatments: Back pain symptoms can also be relieved through chiropractic, massage, acupuncture or osteopathy.
Surgery: If conservative treatments, as well as interventional pain procedures, are not helpful, your doctor may recommend surgery. Surgery is also recommended if a specific medical condition causes the back pain.