Back Pain (General)
Back pain is common, especially for active people who use their back muscles in uncommon ways daily, such as construction workers and athletes. Although there are plenty of different causes of back pain, many people think it’s an unavoidable condition that occurs after an accident or injury and can last for weeks. This is not true. You can often prevent back pain by making small changes in your daily activities and lifestyles. If you are struggling with back pain, there are treatment options available. This article covers informative content about the symptoms, causes, and back pain treatment.
Back Pain Symptoms and Potential Causes
Back pain symptoms can vary from person to person, but some common ones often appear. The most common symptom is aching or pain in the lower back or hips when standing up from sitting or lying down for long periods. However, it is not uncommon for people to experience some combination of these symptoms for several weeks before seeking medical care for their condition. Here are the symptoms and signs of back pain.
Pain in the Back and Neck That Radiates to the Shoulder Area
Pain that radiates to your shoulder area is often a sign of a severe back problem. The pain may not be in your back but in one of the nerves that pass through it. These nerves are called lumbar plexuses and carry signals from the lower extremities to the brain. If these nerves are irritated by an injury or become inflamed, you can experience pain in your neck and shoulder area. This pain usually starts at the base of your skull and then radiates down the back to your neck. It can be caused by:
Sleeping on an uncomfortable mattress or pillow
- Sitting in one position for an extended period of time (such as working at a computer)
- Stretching too far before you’re ready to move (for example, when lifting something heavy)
- Sudden or severe trauma to the spine, such as a car accident or fall.
- A herniated disc in your back (a bulge in a disc that presses on nerves). You may have severe pain in your lower back or hip area when you stand up from sitting or lying down for long periods.
- A pinched nerve in your neck (often called radiculopathy) may occur after surgery or injury to a nerve.
An Achy Feeling in Your Lower Back or Hips When You Stand Up From Sitting
When you sit or lie down for long periods, your lower back may begin to ache. The cause is usually a disc problem when a portion of the vertebrae in your spine has become worn out and degenerate over time. This can be caused by trauma to the area or osteoporosis when the bones lose calcium due to aging. You may also experience an ache if you have arthritis in your back. It can be caused by:
- Working at a computer all day long with poor posture (head down, shoulders slumped forward)
- Exercising vigorously without warming up first — even if you’re just walking around the block
Difficulty Walking Due to Weakness in Your Legs Caused by Inflammation
When inflammation occurs around a disc, it can cause weakness and pain in your legs, making walking difficult. This condition is called lumbar radiculopathy, which means inflammation in the nerves running along one side of the spine, called L3-L5. It’s caused by irritation of these nerves due to trauma or injury such as a sports injury or car accident. When inflammation around one or more discs in your lower back causes weakness in your legs, it may be difficult for you to walk. It’s important to seek medical attention if you experience any symptoms causing instability when walking or standing up from sitting or lying down, such as numbness or tingling in the legs or feet or difficulty walking upstairs without using a cane.
Soreness, Stiffness, and Tingling Sensation in the Lower Back or Buttock Area
Pain in the lower back or buttock area can be caused by several conditions, including herniated discs and sciatica. Herniated discs occur when one or more discs between your spinal vertebrae push into your spinal canal and compress nearby nerves. Sciatica is pain that radiates down your leg from your lower back to your toes, often accompanied by numbness in your foot. It can be caused by a variety of conditions, including:
- Severe muscle strain or sprain
- A spinal disc herniation
- An infection or inflammation of the muscles, tendons, and ligaments that surround your spine
- Degenerative joint disease (osteoarthritis)
Potential Treatment for Back Pain Symptoms
When you are suffering from back pain, there are many treatments that you should know about. Some of these treatments may be able to help relieve your symptoms, while others may be completely ineffective and shouldn’t be used. Here are some back pain treatments.
Exercising is highly effective in treating back pain and other musculoskeletal conditions. However, it can be difficult for some people to exercise, especially if they are not used to it or don’t like working out. If you have back pain, it is important to start an exercise routine slowly and build up your activity level over time. Here are some tips on how to get started:
- Start with walking or light jogging. Walking is easier than jogging because it doesn’t put much pressure on your muscles and joints. If you aren’t used to walking or jogging, start with a short distance and gradually work up to longer distances over time.
- Walk at least 30 minutes per day three days per week for six weeks straight, then reduce this amount and add another walking session every other day for six weeks straight. Continue these sessions for at least one year before reducing again.
- Perform resistance training exercises two times per week for six weeks straight, then reduce this amount and perform only one session per week until your body adjusts to being inactive again.
In most cases, medications can be used to treat back pain. These include NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs), acetaminophen, and opiates such as Vicodin (acetaminophen) or OxyContin (oxycodone). Medications like ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) and naproxen sodium (Aleve) are also effective for treating inflammation in the back.
Physical Therapy (PT)
Physical therapy is another treatment option for back pain that takes a more holistic approach to treat the causes of your pain rather than just treating symptoms alone. Physical therapists will evaluate your specific injury and its progression over time, as well as your overall health and fitness level. They will then design an individualized program of exercises and stretches that will help strengthen muscles around your spine, improve posture and reduce stress on your body from daily activities. In addition to physical therapy, many people find that massage therapy can relieve tight muscles and help them relax during recovery from an injury or surgery.
There are many alternative treatments for back pain, and most work similarly. They help to loosen up the muscles holding your spine in place, making it easier for your body to heal itself. These include:
- Massage therapy: A massage therapist can help relax tense muscles, reduce stress and improve circulation in the area. Massage therapists often use deep tissue techniques that target specific areas of your back to release tension and decrease muscle spasms. They also use heat therapy to increase blood flow and reduce swelling.
- Dry Needling: Similar to acupuncture, Dry Needling involves inserting thin needles into specific points on your body to stimulate healing responses in your nervous system. Therapists believe that stimulating these points helps relieve pain by sending messages to the brain about what’s causing it. In some cases, dry needling has been used successfully for back pain by stimulating key nerves in the spinal cord to send messages to the brain about where in the body pain originates (for example, if there’s an injury).
- Myofascial Release: Therapists work with patients whose symptoms include back pain by manipulating a specific layer of the soft tissue called the fascia using massage techniques. They may also hold your body positions to stretch some of the tight fascia.
Back pain can be debilitating. The only way to treat it is to find its cause and the right medicine. You’ll have to adopt a lifestyle that supports you and move away from any behavior that hurts your back. That’s why it’s essential to understand why you have back pain in the first place because once you do, you’ll know what to do to fix it – and how to prevent it from happening again.