Back Pain

What is Back Pain?

Back pain, especially of the lower back, is one of the most common medical problems, affects 8 out of 10 people at some point during their lives. The pain can range from dull constant ache to sudden, sharp pain. In some cases, back pain will resolve on it’s own and may last anywhere from a few days to a month.

Types of Back Pain

  • Acute Back Pain: Acute or short-term back pain generally lasts anywhere between a few days to a few weeks. Most acute back pain results from some trauma to the lower back or from a health disorder such as arthritis. Sports injuries, housework, car accidents or falls can all contribute to acute lower back pain. The symptoms range from a dull muscle ache to a sharp, more intense pain. You may experience limited flexibility or difficulty standing up. In some instances, acute back pain can become more serious without proper treatment.
  • Chronic Back Pain: Back pain that lasts for over 3 months is considered a chronic condition. Often times chronic back pain is progressive and it can be quite difficult to determine the cause.

What Causes Back Pain?

There numerous conditions and injuries that can cause back pain but very commonly it is caused by injury to the muscles (sprain) and ligaments (strain). Lifting something wrong, getting into an accident, falling, not exercising properly and even poor posture can cause back pain.

Back pain can also caused by more serious conditions or injuries such as fractures, a ruptured disc or arthritis. The natural aging process and certain infections can also result in back pain.

Some causes of back pain include:

Should I See a Doctor For Back Pain?

Back pain may go away on its own however if the pain does not improve at all within three days or you experience any of the following, it is best to schedule an appointment with your doctor:

  • Constant or intense pain, especially at night or when you lie down
  • Pain that spreads down one or both legs, especially if the pain extends below your knee
  • The pain causes weakness, numbness or tingling in one or both legs
  • Pain that occurs with unintended weight loss
  • Swelling or redness on your back in addition to back pain

Treatment From a Health Professional

In some cases treatment for back pain is not necessary. However if the pain is a symptom of a more serious condition, your doctor will prescribe the appropriate medical treatment for you. A Computerized Tomography (CT) scan, an MRI, blood tests or X-ray may be done in order for your doctor to make a diagnosis. You should discuss your medical history and any past back problems with your doctor. Your doctor may also recommend:

  • Physical therapy
  • Regular exercise
  • Prescription narcotics, such as Codeine or Hydrocodone can be taken for pain relief over a short period of time
  • Muscle relaxants, such as Metaxalone are sometimes prescribed to treat back pain
  • Use of a back brace
  • Surgery

Should I Have an MRI For Lower Back Pain?

Magnetic Resonance Imaging or MRI is an imaging tool that creates detailed images of the spine. If you experience any of the following, you will most likely need to have an MRI as soon as possible:

  • Unable to urinate or pass stools
  • Unable to control urine or stools
  • Difficulty walking or keeping balance
  • Fever
  • History of cancer
  • Signs or symptoms of cancer
  • Serious fall or injury
  • Back pain that is severe cannot be relieved by taking pain medications
  • Numbness or pain in one or both legs
  • Severe back pain in a child

Ways to Alleviate Back Pain

Over-the-counter pain relievers, like Aleve and ibuprofen are effective in reducing pain and inflammation. Alternating between hot and cold compresses can also be effective in relieving back muscle pain. When sleeping, be sure not to use too many, or too little pillows. If needed you can rest in bed for 1-2 days, however any longer than that can actually do more harm than good. Daily exercise and maintaining a healthy diet can help in preventing chronic back pain.

Places to Get Help

Get excellent bone and joint treatment from the top doctors at OrthoArizona – Arizona Orthopaedic Associates.