I. Introduction to Back Pain
Back pain is something that can happen to anyone. The level of intensity varies from person to person. Some suffer from acute pain, while others have chronic back pains. The level of pain and other factors are reasons why each person needs a specific pain management and treatment plan.
Identifying the underlying cause of pain may be hard. It could be due to an injury or some condition or syndrome. What makes it difficult to identify is that the cause could be many things: ligaments, muscles, discs or others. Proper evaluation and diagnostics are needed to know the cause of your back pain.
There are various types of back pain. They are categorized as follows:
- Axial Pain
This is also referred to as “mechanical pain.” This comes as a sharp or dull pain that can be intermittent or constant. The most common cause of this pain is muscle strain.
- Referred Pain
This type of pain can range from dull to achy. The pain here varies in intensity and moves around the area. A common example is degenerative disc disease, which just one of the many diseases we treat.
- Radical Pain
This type manifests as a searing and deep pain. Aside from pain, you might also feel weakness and numbness in the affected area. This is normally due to spinal nerve root injury, inflammation or compression. Certain underlying conditions can lead radical pain, such as spinal stenosis or herniated disc.
Understanding and determining the type of pain you have is highly important. Through this, we can conduct proper diagnostics and apply the right treatment.
II. What is Chronic Back Pain?
If your low back pain has been bothering you for more than three months, it is already considered chronic. You may feel an aching, dull, sharp, tingling, stabbing or burning pain, depending on the origination of your pain, which could be due to stress, disease, condition or injury. The level of pain ranges from mild to severe. You may feel muscle, nerve or bone pain. These are symptoms we treat.
There are various causes of chronic back pain. The underlying cause may be due to stress, injury or condition suffered by your nerves, joints, muscles, spinal cord or ligaments. You feel pain because the nerve endings from the affected area will send signals to your brain, which is then interpreted as pain.
b. How Chronic Back Pain is Diagnosed
The initial evaluation involves checking the medical history of the patient and conducting physical examination. By doing this, the professionals can place the case of patient into one particular category: (1) back pain associated with another specific spinal cause, (2) back pain referred from a nonspinal source, (3) back pain associated with radiculopathy, and (4) non-specific low back pain. If the chronic low back pain falls under (1) and (3) in the preceding sentence, the pain can be diagnosed using computed tomography (CT) or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). The diagnosis will then be the basis for the pain management and treatment.
c. Available Treatments
There are various available treatments for chronic back pain, depending on the source and type of pain you have. The source of pain, such as low back pain, must determined first in order to treat the underlying cause. However, if the source is not identified, our professionals will can and will treat the symptoms to alleviate the pain. Our ultimate goal when conducting treatments is to improve your quality of life by reducing or alleviating the pain.
We perform physical therapy to treat the pain. This includes patient education, manual therapies, strengthening and stretching exercises and modalities such as transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation.
Medications for chronic back pain are also available. They vary in different categories. Narcotic and non-narcotic medications can be used to treat back pain. NSAIDs or Nonsteroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs do not just reduce inflammation but also help control pain.
Injections and certain surgeries can also be used to treat chronic pain. These procedures range, depending on the source and type of pain. Implantable devices are sometimes used too. However, these procedures are best discussed with reliable and qualified pain experts in order to avoid potential risks.
III. What is Acute Back Pain
Acute pain is more common than chronic type. In acute pain, the discomfort and pain lasts three to six months or less. This type of pain is usually associated with tissue damage. It usually manifests as a stabbing, burning, aching, vague, dull or sharp pain. The pain can be mild to severe. This usually radiates in the buttocks, hip or thigh area.
The source of acute pain in the lower back cannot always be easily identified. The pain can come from the blood vessels, cartilage, joint capsules, ligaments, muscles or soft connective tissues. When the tissues get stretched, strained or pulled, it can result to tears, which lead to pain. The pain can develop due to a jarring trauma or after a strenuous activity. Some acute pains come suddenly and others develop gradually.
b. How Acute Back Pains is Diagnosed
In diagnosing acute back pains, physical examination needs to be conducted and the accurate history of the patient needs to be evaluated. You must tell the health care provider if the pain occurred once or if it is recurrent. If it’s the latter, it requires an immediate treatment as it can come with increased symptoms.
c. Available Treatments
As a temporary remedy, you can apply heat or ice on the affected area so that you can reduce or control the pain. However, if the pain continues, you can try other treatments, with proper guidance from a professional.
The medications available for acute low back pain include analgesics (pain relievers), NSAIDs and acetaminophen.
Other options include physical therapy modalities. These are chiropractic manipulation, electrical stimulation, ultrasound and mobilization.
If you are suffering from either chronic or low back pain, make sure that you get the proper treatment so you can continue living a comfortable, pain-free life. Contact Arizona Pain and Spine Institute today!