What is Back Pain

Back  Pain-  Complaints of back pain are so common that they are among the top reasons people visit their doctors and miss work.  Back pain can be caused by trauma or injury, excessive activity, osteoporosis, muscle or ligament strains, bulging or ruptured disks, arthritis, skeletal irregularities, spinal stenosis. 

Another cause of long-term (chronic) back pain is “Failed Back Syndrome”, which is:  Chronic pain resulting from unsuccessful back or spine surgery that can radiate to a number of areas.  Causes include nerve damage, scar tissue, muscle irritation, a nerve root that remains compressed (pinched), or a painful joint that is either stimulated or not stabilized during surgery.

Back Pain Signs & Symptoms:

  • Radiating pain
  • Inability to stand upright
  • Pain may increase during sitting
  • Muscle ache
  • Limited flexibility or range of motion of the back

“If you've ever groaned, "Oh, my aching back!", you are not alone. Back pain is one of the most common medical problems, affecting 8 out of 10 people at some point during their lives. Back pain can range from a dull, constant ache to a sudden, sharp pain. Acute back pain comes on suddenly and usually lasts from a few days to a few weeks. Back pain is called chronic if it lasts for more than three months.

Most back pain goes away on its own, though it may take a while. Taking over-the-counter pain relievers and resting can help. However, staying in bed for more than 1 or 2 days can make it worse.

If your back pain is severe or doesn't improve after three days, you should call your health care provider. You should also get medical attention if you have back pain following an injury.

Treatment for back pain depends on what kind of pain you have, and what is causing it. It may include hot or cold packs, exercise, medicines, injections, complementary and alternative treatments, and sometimes surgery”.  – Medline Plus http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/backpain.html

 When to see a doctor

Most back pain gradually improves with home treatment and self-care. Although the pain may take several weeks to disappear completely, you should notice some improvement within the first 72 hours of self-care. If not, see your doctor.

In rare cases, back pain can signal a serious medical problem. Seek immediate care if your back pain:

  • Causes new bowel or bladder problems
  • Is associated with pain or throbbing (pulsation) in the abdomen, or fever
  • Follows a fall, blow to your back or other injury

Contact a doctor if your back pain:

  • Is constant or intense, especially at night or when you lie down
  • Spreads down one or both legs, especially if the pain extends below the knee
  • Causes weakness, numbness or tingling in one or both legs
  • Is accompanied by unexplained weight loss
  • Occurs with swelling or redness on your back

Also, see your doctor if you start having back pain for the first time after age 50, or if you have a history of cancer, osteoporosis, steroid use, or drug or alcohol abuse”. – The Mayo Clinic  http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/back-pain/basics/symptoms/con-20020797

Learn more about Low Back Pain from the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons:  http://orthoinfo.aaos.org/topic.cfm?topic=a00311