Why the Back Can Hurt
Back pain is caused by various reasons. There are many types of back problems. They are defined and treated based on their location of origin, how severe the pain, and what activities trigger the onset of pain. Treatment options vary from the traditional medical to alternative care options. There are many reasons behind the development of back pain.
Back Pain Location
Back pain may be localized, or it can radiate to extremities. The pain might also radiate from another part of the body to affect the back. It can be in the small of the back or lower back (lumbar), mid back, and upper back. And it can involve the neck, shoulders, hip, and tailbone. Pain may be on both sides, or just on the left side or right side. The exact origin of the pain is indicative of the type of condition that might be the cause.
Various Forms of Back Pain & Their Causes
A sore back can involve pain that is dull or sharp and sudden. Some patients may have back pain that is chronic. The pain either lasting for an extended period of time or regularly recurring in the same area. Back strain can also include spasms of the back muscles, a pulled muscle, or general muscle strain. It can originate from a disease, infection, cancer, a pinched nerve, a herniated or bulging disc, or from exercise or working out, inflammation, pregnancy, or injury. Pain from exercise could be due to overexertion, improper posture, or if the patient does not properly cool down after working out. People may experience more back pain as they advance in age. Others may have back strain from incorrect practice of ergonomics. These include standing up or sitting down in the wrong position at work and at home, or during a commute.
It is the seemingly little things, like daily habits, that add up in the long run when it comes to the patient’s unintentional neglect of their bodies.1
General Medical Treatments
There are many different treatment options available for managing the symptoms of back pain. The choice of treatment depends on where it is located and the type of pain, as well as the diagnosis of the reason behind it. Conservative medical treatments may involve ice, heat, rest, over-the-counter medications (NSAIDs, such as naproxen, or acetaminophen), various exercises, and physical therapy. More invasive options would include nerve blocks, antibiotics, spinal injections, prescription medication, spinal decompression therapy, and even surgery. The latter options are usually reserved for more serious cases of back pain where the cause of the pain could potentially cause even greater harm to the patient in the long run if left untreated.2
Some prescription medications carry risks that may include addiction. Other side effects of medications and the potential for the patient’s body to become accustomed to the effects the medication and thus requiring an increase in dosage are just two more reasons why long-term use of these drugs is not necessarily sustainable.
Medical specialists can diagnose the cause of back pain through standard medical exams or with expensive CT and MRI scans. Patients and their doctors should absolutely be sure that something more malignant is the cause of the pain before running the more expensive tests to confirm the hypothetical diagnosis.3
Chiropractic, Massage, and Alternatives for Back Pain
To avoid the risks of surgery and all of the potential side effects of medications, patients may also explore alternative options to standard medical care. Some of these therapies focus on allowing the body to heal itself. There are a number of therapies fall under the umbrella of complementary and alternative medicine, also known as CAM. This is a category of medicine which focuses primarily on the body’s natural ability to heal itself with minimal help through lifestyle changes and some physical help from practitioners of CAM.
Chiropractors are specialists in back pain remedies. Their adjustments, manipulations, and techniques can help ease discomfort that their patients experience. Chiropractors are well-trained in the matters of how small adjustments made to the body can help realign the physical body and allow it to heal itself more effectively. They can also work with the patient in preventing future injuries by suggesting exercises and appropriate ergonomic options to keep up care even when patients are at home or at work. These might include workout routines tailored to the patient, and whatever condition is causing their pain, as well as recommended modifications to how patient’s sit or carry themselves throughout the day. Other ways chiropractors might provide relief at their office include using electrical stimulation (TENS). And they may even employ traction, massage, nutritional advice and supplements, or acupuncture.
Some patients may also want to try yoga or Pilates and other exercise and stretching regimens to strengthen back muscles. It is important to know when to rest and when not to bend, lift, or twist. Appropriate back stretches, which patients can perform when taking breaks from sedentary activities like computer work, can also be helpful.4
Learn more about back stretches and exercises for back pain.