Back injuries can occur as a result from playing sports, car accidents, falls or even lifting heavy items improperly. The lower back is the most common area that people experience injuries and pain.
Common Types of Back Injuries
Sprains and Strains: An overly stretched or torn ligament is known as a sprain. Ligaments are tissues in various parts of the body that connect bones at a joint. Symptoms of a sprain include pain, swelling, bruising, and the inability to move the affected joint. Falling, twisting, car accidents and getting hit are all things that can cause a sprain. A strain occurs when a muscle or tendon, the tissue that connects muscle to bone, is overly stretched or torn. Strains can occur suddenly or can occur slowly over time from things such playing sports. Symptoms of a strain include pain in the affected area, muscle spasms, swelling, and trouble with moving the muscle.
Herniated Disk: A herniated disk occurs when a disk in the spine is ruptured. Disks are soft, filled with a jelly-like substance and serve as a cushion between each of the 26 vertebrae bones that make up the spine. When a disk is ruptured, the substance inside of it begins to leak and irritates the nerves that are nearby. Symptoms of a herniated disk include pain, and possibly sciatica. sciatica is a symptom that involves the largest nerve in the body, called the sciatic nerve. If you are suffering from sciatica you may experience pain, weakness, numbness or a tingling sensation starting in the lower back and extending down the leg.
Spinal Fracture: Fracturing one of the vertebra that make up the spine is quite different than a broken arm or leg. A fracture or dislocation of a vertebra can result in pinching or damage to the spinal nerves and spinal cord due to bone fragments in the area. Most spinal fractures occur from car accidents, falls, gunshot wounds or sports injuries. This type of injury can cause symptoms such as mild to severe pain and with spinal cord damage you may have difficulty walking or even lose the ability to move your arms and legs (paralysis).
What Are The Symptoms Associated With a Back Injury?
Symptoms of a back injury can vary greatly depending on the cause and severity of the injury. Often back injuries are accompanied by some amount of pain and discomfort, however with proper care the pain normally subsides within three weeks. In cases where there is a more serious injury such as a fracture or damage to the spinal cord, there is a risk of experiencing paralysis and pain that extends to the lower extremities.
Should I See A Doctor?
The pain experienced after a minor back injury may resolve on its own between 3 days and 3 weeks after the injury. However if you are experiencing any of the following, it is best to see your doctor:
- Constant or severe 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
Seek emergency medical treatment if your back pain:
- Occurs after a high-impact car crash, bad fall or sports injury
- Causes new bowel or bladder control problems
- Occurs with a fever
Treatment From A Healthcare Professional
In some cases, such as with a sprain, treatment is not necessary. However if your symptoms are the result of a more serious injury your doctor will advise you of the best treatment options available. A Computerized Tomography (CT) scan, blood tests or X-ray may be done in order for your doctor to make a diagnosis. Other imaging studies may be used to identify injuries and some injections are used for diagnostic purposes and to administer pain relief drugs. Treatment could possibly include:
- 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.
- Physical Therapy
- Use of a back brace.
Ways to Alleviate Pain After a Back Injury
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 and muscle pain after an injury.
Places to Get Help
Get excellent bone and joint treatment from the top doctors at OrthoArizona – Arizona Orthopaedic Associates.