Back pain affects many people throughout out the duration of their lives. Back pain may come and go for a few days, maybe weeks. Others are affected by back pain for a persistent amount of time. Back pain also occurs as a symptom of an underlying condition. The important thing to do is determine the cause of your back pain. A back pain specialist can accurately determine the cause and develop a treatment plan for your needs.
A frequent medical complaint, back pain can take a toll on the quality of life. Many of the symptoms associated with back pain can negatively impact an individual’s mobility and functionality. Ideally, pain and back specialists will accurately determine the location of the back pain, the type of back pain symptoms, and develop a treatment plan to effectively manage your symptoms.
A back and pain management center will thoroughly evaluate your medical history and specifically your back pain history. They will devise a plan that will safely and ethically treat and mitigate your symptoms so you can return to a fully functioning life.
Where do you experience back pain? Back pain is not limited to one region of the back or spinal column. The back can be divided into three regions: upper, middle, and lower. Your upper back (also known as the thoracic spine) provides stability for your body, helping the rib cage to protect the internal organs that lie within the chest. The middle back (part of the lower thoracic spine) also supports the body’s torso and the organs that sit lower under the rib cage. The lower back (or the lumbar spine) supports the middle and upper back. The network of ligaments and nerves support flexibility for twisting and bending. Pain symptoms are not limited to one region of the spine.
Upper Back Pain
Typically, the upper back is resistant to injury. However, upper back pain can and does occur. Poor posture over an extended period of time or injury to the upper back can cause pain symptoms.
The pain symptoms that occur can be a result of muscular irritation or joint dysfunction. Muscular irritation can be caused from constant straining or tightened muscles that are unable to relax. Repetitive motions and lack of upper back strength contribute to this painful muscle irritation. Joint dysfunction can occur from natural degeneration (such as age or health conditions) or a sudden injury.
Symptoms of upper back pain include:
- Sharp pain
- An achy/throbbing discomfort felt in the upper back
- Radiating pain
Upper back pain symptoms may start slowly and gradually before worsening. Sometimes pain in the upper back can have a sudden onset, or may even be delayed. Each patient is different, and their individual pain history may determine their pain experience.
Middle Back Pain
Similar to upper back pain, when the middle back starts experiencing pain symptoms it can have several causes. Arthritis, muscle strain, or even injury can bring the onset of pain symptoms. Some other common causes of middle back pain are a result of obesity or herniated discs.
The lower thoracic spine (middle back) does not move as much as the lumbar spine (lower back) thus making middle back pain less common. Pain experienced in this region can also be a result of pain radiating from another location in the body.
Symptoms of middle back pain include:
- Burning sensation
- Redness/swelling in the back
- Sharp pain
- Muscle aches
- Muscle stiffness
Lower Back Pain
The most common location of back pain, the lower back (or lumbar spine) region of your body is an intricate network of interconnecting bones, ligaments, joints, and nerves. The muscles in the lower back are responsible for rotating hips while walking as well as supporting the spinal column.
Lower back pain can be a result of soft-tissue injury or a mechanical issue with the body. If a muscle becomes overstrained or even pulled, the soft-tissue injury can become very painful. Sometimes the discs can start degenerating or the joints can lose function.
It is possible for lower back pain to develop suddenly and with no underlying condition or mechanical issue with the body. If there is no definitive cause for pain in the lumbar spine, treatment may shift to focusing on mitigating the pain symptoms instead of “healing” the cause of the pain.
Symptoms of lower back pain include:
- Muscle spasms
- Difficulty standing straight
- Stinging pain
- Difficulty walking
- Dull aching pain
Beyond the specific region of the back that causes pain, establishing the type of back pain is critical for treatment. Identifying the type of pain experienced, your skilled back pain specialist will establish a treatment plan based on your symptoms.
Types of lower back pain:
- Muscle spasms
- Difficulty standing straight
- Stinging pain
- Difficulty walking
- Dull aching pain
Based on duration and cause, these types of back pain can vary in approach and treatment.
Acute Back pain is described as a pain that does not last longer than six months and can come on suddenly. Typically this pain is a direct result of an event such as a surgery, dental work, a burn, etc…. When the underlying cause is removed, typically with time (such as a few hours/days after dental work) the pain will subside.
Pain experienced longer than six months can be characterized as chronic back pain. The pain can be experienced even after the injury or illness has healed. The pain is ongoing and consistently felt. The nervous system remains active with pain signals being sent to the brain. Chronic pain can be linked to things like arthritis, fibromyalgia, back injuries, and never pain. A difficult ramification of chronic pain is the toll it can take on your emotional and mental health. The negative impact can also increase anxiety and depression, compounding the pain sensations.
The body’s immune system will react to injury and/or infection with inflammation. The pain signals encourage the natural healing mechanisms of the body to relieve the symptoms. However, the excessive inflammation ca be painful in itself. The immune system attacks the joints of the spine which cause the pain symptoms. An effective method to diagnose inflammatory back pain is if you receive relief from NSAID’s (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs). Some common causes of inflammatory conditions that lead to inflammation pain are MS or rheumatoid arthritis.
Extension Dominant Pain
Extension dominant pain is a result of prolonged pressure on the spine when it is extended. This pain is primarily felt in the lower back (lumbar spine), with the back feeling stiff in the same way each time. You may experience pain after high impact activities or even leg pain.
Flexion Dominant Pain
More often than not, this type of pain is related to injury to the discs. Pain and symptoms develop in a trackable pattern such as when sitting, bending, or lifting. This type of spinal pain can also lead to a loss of range of motion.
We Can Help!
Regardless of the type of chronic back pain you are experiencing it is important for skilled back specialists to be able to examine you and diagnose you correctly. With an accurate diagnosis, a back pain specialist doctor will be able to establish not only the type of back pain but its classification.
Back Pain Classifications
Back pain classifications can be identified as axial pain, referred pain, and radicular pain. Back pain classifications are determined by how you describe your pain and the pain distribution.
This type of pain is confined to a specific region or a singular spot that the pain originates from. This type of pain is mechanical, and is experienced as sharp, dull, or throbbing.
This type of pain is characterized as achy that moves around to other areas. The intensity can vary and can affect other parts of your body.
This type of pain is felt as a searing sensation because the pain follows the path of the spinal nerve sending the pain signal. Typically caused by compression or inflammation on the spinal nerve root, the pain can travel down specific spinal canals.
Each individual suffering from chronic back pain will have unique needs to their pain management. Patients suffering from chronic back pain should find a skilled back pain management clinic that can accurately diagnose and treat your pain.
Chronic back pain can be a complex and multifaceted condition. No two patients can be treated in the exact same way. However, there are common treatments that can assist chronic back pain sufferers with variations in the treatment modalities.
When your day-to-day life is physically limited due to your chronic back pain, you may find yourself becoming frustrated when trying to find relief. Living with chronic back pain can be a challenge, but figuring out the right treatment combination can greatly improve the quality of your life. Common approaches to treating chronic back pain are:
A skilled pain management specialist will be able to determine which combination of therapy is appropriate for you
Many patients suffering from chronic back pain may not find relief from over-the-counter medicines and may require a prescription for something different. The types of medications that a physician may prescribe are non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAID’s), muscle relaxants, and opioids. If prescription medication is being prescribed, a skilled back and pain specialist will decide which approach is best.
Depending on the location of your back pain, medicated injections may provide you with better relief. Injection therapy is an ideal alternative for patients who do not wish to take prescription medications. Injections target the pain location directly, delivering the medication to the region generating pain. Spinal injections may provide individuals with relief for months or even years. People can return to enjoying their day to day lives without being limited by back pain.
Alternative pain management therapies can be used independently, as well as in conjunction with conventional therapies. Some alternative options for patients are incorporating acupuncture, yoga, and the use of medical cannabis in their daily routines. Alternative pain management therapies allow chronic pain patients to be treated more holistically. Patients can incorporate non opioid/pharmacological therapies safely into their treatment plans.
Find the Right Treatment for You
There are many new and innovative therapy options available for patients to explore for the most effective results. Vital to a patient’s healing process, finding a comprehensive pain management program or practice provides the constructive environment needed to treating your chronic back pain.
If you would like more information about our chronic back pain treatments, please call Pain and Spine Specialists and speak to our dedicated team to improve the quality of your life. You can call (301) 703-8767 (Maryland), (724) 603-3560 (Pennsylvania), or (540) 433-1905 (Virginia) and schedule an appointment today.
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Individualized treatment plans and patient care.
we treat you
Not Just Your Symptoms
Comprehensive pain management that identifies the source of your pain and provides access to progressive treatments
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We Treat a Variety of Conditions
In addition to treating chronic back pain, Pain and Spine Specialists offers other innovative and progressive treatments for other pain conditions. Pain and Spine Specialists provide their skilled knowledge and experience for treating neck pain, leg pain, and other pain causing disorders. Our highly qualified doctors efficiently manage your pain symptoms to help return your mobility and functionality.