What is back pain?
Back pain can be caused by many things and involves the muscles, bones, or joints in the back or spine region. It is often characterized by a sudden, sharp pain that makes it hard to walk, sit or lay down. It can also start off as a dull pain and become more intense or sharper as time passes.
Anyone can get back pain, but you may be at a greater risk if you are:
- Getting older
- In poor shape
- Diagnosed with a disease, such as arthritis or cancer, or have a disc disorder
- Improperly lifting, pushing or pulling heavy objects
- Smoking, because it causes the vessels to tighten and restricts the flow of vital nutrients to the discs in your back
- Not sitting up straight at work
What causes back pain?
The back and spine region is a very complicated structure composed of bone, muscles, and nerve endings. Any number of things can cause back pain, including:
- Disc breakdown
- Ruptured discs
- Tense muscles
- Accidental falls
Conditions and Diseases
- Spinal Stenosis
When should I see a doctor?
If you have any of the following symptoms you should see your own doctor or one of the experts at the Spine Center at Florida Hospital Celebration Health.
- Numbness or tingling
- Severe pain that does not improve with rest
- Pain after a fall or an injury
How is back pain diagnosed?
Your doctor will give you an initial exam that includes taking your medical history. In addition, your physician may recommend an:
- MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging)
- CT (Computed Tomography Scan)
- Blood tests
These tests may not show the cause of your back pain and, in many cases, the cause is never known. However, that’s not to say there isn’t an appropriate treatment for your back pain. The source of the pain isn’t always important.
What is the difference between acute and chronic pain?
If you experience a very sharp pain or a dull ache that is felt deeply in your back, it is usually referred to as acute back pain. The pain may also be more intense in a specific location of the back, such as the right side, the center or the lower back and most often presents itself in the lower region. The pain may be moderate and brief or it could last for weeks or months, typically lasting no longer than 6 months. Untreated acute pain, however, can lead to chronic pain.
In contrast, chronic back pain often feels like a deep, dull, aching, or burning pain in a specific area of the back that travels down the legs. You may experience numbness, a “pins and needles” sensation, or tingling. If you have chronic back pain, you may not be able to work, even if your job doesn’t require physical activity. Unlike acute pain, which should respond to standard pain management techniques, chronic back pain may require a more aggressive nonsurgical or even surgical intervention. Chronic back pain can be caused by nerve damage, arthritis, or an injury that you thought had previously healed.