Whether you’re a workout enthusiast or simply spend a lot of time sitting in an office chair, it’s likely that you’ve dealt with some degree of back pain in your day-to-day life. When pain strikes, it’s essential that you’re equipped to identify the cause of your condition and recognize your symptoms.
COMMON CAUSES OF BACK PAIN
Many people also experience issues due to prolonged stress or heavy lifting. The repetitive motions and impact of sports can cause back pain, but lack of exercise can also weaken muscles and make them more susceptible to injury.
Pain in the back may be linked to a medical condition that requires a doctor’s diagnosis. Back pain can have anatomic causes, such as scoliosis or weak core muscles. As the body ages, troublesome disc issues are more likely to occur as the soft matter bulges and presses on nerves, causing disc herniation, degenerative disc disease, or spinal stenosis.
Certain chronic issues, such as arthritis, can affect the back as well. Sciatica, nerve compression, kidney disease, or even tumors can be risk factors, and pregnancy often puts additional stress on the back muscles.
SYMPTOMS OF LOWER AND UPPER BACK PAIN
If you’re experiencing lower back or lumbar spinal pain, you may experience:
- The inability to sit up straight or move with your full range of motion
- Pain or discomfort when attempting to stand, sit, or walk
- Pain when trying to lift a heavy object
- A sharp pain in the back of the thigh or buttock
- A dull ache in the lower back
If you’re experiencing upper back or thoracic spinal pain, you may experience:
- Stiffness or tightness, especially when attempting to twist or fully straighten your upper body
- Pain through your neck and shoulders
- Weakness or a slouched posture
- Numbness, tenderness, or muscle spasms in the back
- Intense pain, in the case of vertebrae injury
THE INITIAL DIAGNOSIS
If you have chronic back pain, it’s important to consult your doctor. Some pain may indicate the need for simple lifestyle changes — better posture, more exercise, or a new mattress, for example. Most of the time, the pain can be traced back to a muscle injury or joint inflammation, which can respond well to more conservative treatments.
Only a doctor can help you determine if your discomfort is more serious. For instance, if you’re experiencing shooting or burning pain down the legs, numbness, or tingling, this may be the sign of a herniated disc or pinched nerve. Your doctor may recommend an MRI to rule out disc herniations and spinal stenosis, along with an EMG nerve test to identify any other underlying issues. For more urgent conditions, like a fracture due to direct impact, you should seek immediate medical attention.
SEEKING TREATMENT AND PAIN RELIEF
If you’re experiencing acute but manageable back pain, you can start with conservative treatment methods. For the first 48 hours you should rest, take anti-inflammatory medication, and ice the affected area for 20 minutes at a time. Rest is the most effective treatment for upper back pain, as long as you lie down in a way that doesn’t strain the spine.
If your pain persists, your doctor may suggest physical therapy, or changes like exercising and improving your posture. Exercise can prevent injury by strengthening the back and abdominal muscles, but be sure to warm up, stretch, and gradually increase activity.
Injections are another common treatment for back pain. Options include trigger point injections to relieve painful muscles, anti-inflammatory joint injections, epidural injections for spinal nerves, or nerve blocks. In more serious cases, your doctor may recommend surgery.
New Mexico Orthopaedics is a multi-disciplinary orthopaedic clinic located in Albuquerque New Mexico. We have multiple physical therapy clinics located throughout the Albuquerque metro area.
New Mexico Orthopaedics offers a full spectrum of services related to orthopaedic care and our expertise ranges from acute conditions such as sports injuries and fractures to prolonged, chronic care diagnoses, including total joint replacement and spinal disorders.
Because our team of highly-trained physicians specialize in various aspects of the musculoskeletal system, our practice has the capacity to treat any orthopaedic condition, and offer related support services, such as physical therapy, WorkLink and much more.
If you need orthopedic care in Albuquerque New Mexico contact New Mexico Orthopaedics at 505-724-4300.