Back pain is one of the most common types of chronic pain that Americans are afflicted with. In fact, back pain is only second to the common cold in reasons why adult Americans visit the doctor. Back pain can be chronic, meaning long-term, or acute, meaning short-term. Acute back pain can usually be mitigated through conservative measures, such as hot or cold compresses, rest, massage therapy, or over-the-counter pain relievers. For chronic cases, the pain and spine care specialists at Southwest Spine and Pain Center can recommend a number of alternative and interventional treatment options to provide long lasting pain relief.
Symptoms of back pain may vary depending on the patient’s underlying condition. The most common symptom is pain, but the type of pain a patient experiences, as well as the duration and intensity, can differ from patient to patient. For example, it’s possible for some patients to experience sharp, electric shock-like pain that lasts a few seconds or minutes compared to a dull, achy pain that lasts hours or days. A patient’s back pain may also be accompanied by other symptoms like leg numbness, muscle spasms, limited mobility, and tightness in the low back, hips, and pelvis. Patients with back pain that lasts longer than 3 months should see a specialist, as this type of pain is considered chronic.
There are a number of conditions, injuries, and diseases that can cause back pain. For example, back pain may arise from an underlying condition, such as arthritis, degenerative disc disease, sciatica, herniated or bulging discs, spinal stenosis, and osteoporosis. It’s also common for back pain to be caused by a direct injury, overuse injury, or severe trauma. Rarely, back pain will be caused by an infection or cancerous tumor, but both of these instances are still possible.
Treatment for chronic back pain depends on the cause. Conservative measures may be considered in conjunction with alternative and interventional therapies. For example, the pain and spine care specialists at Southwest Spine and Pain Center may recommend regular intervals of rest, hot and cold compresses, and over-the-counter pain medications in between interventional pain treatments. Interventional therapies for back pain may include steroid injections, trigger point injections, nerve blocks, radiofrequency ablation, and nerve stimulation. Severe cases of back pain caused by degeneration or herniated discs may require minimally invasive spine surgery.