Visiting a back pain doctor is a first step that helps many patients find relief from symptoms and discomfort that affect their day to day life.
Pain used to be something that patients had to learn to tolerate and live with. In the recent past, however, a lot of research has been carried out on pain and its psychological and physiological basis. This has resulted into pain management strategies provided by a back pain doctor that can provide total or partial pain relief.
If not treated or managed well, pain can cause undesirable results as it can affect the immune system and thereby interfere with the body’s healing process. Back pain, for instance, can cause discomfort that can further hinder the body’s rehabilitation process (it interferes with exercise) and increase the risk of other psychological distresses.
What Is Back Pain?
Back pain often affects the lower back, but it can strike anywhere. Though some back pains can be short term, others can last for a few days or weeks, and for some people, it can be a long term condition. Most people will experience some form of back pain at some point in their lives. Anyone can experience back pain at any age, though it is common for patients above the age of 35 years.
Low back pain is often experienced as tension, stiffness, or soreness in the lower back area. This type of pain is commonly referred to as ‘non-specific’ back pain and often improves within a few days (on its own). Back pain can be categorized as acute or chronic depending on the duration of your symptoms. To really get an idea of how pain is managed by your back pain doctor, is important to understand another common classification of pain that is commonly used by the medical fraternity: nociceptive and neuropathy pain.
Nociceptive pain is sensed by nociceptors after an injury to joints, bones, muscles, soft tissues, skin and other organs. This type of pain is characterized by deep aching, sore sensation, gnawing, and throbbing. Some common examples of nociceptive pain that are related to back pain include pain after car accident, surgery, trauma, fall, and arthritis pain. This type of pain is often localized and tends to get better with healing.
On the other hand, neuropathic pain is caused by damage to body’s nerve tissue. It is characterized by burning or severe shooting pains, tingling, or persistent numbness. Some common examples of neuropathic pain that are related to back pain are pain that persist post-surgery, pain that travels down the arm from spine, and sciatica.
Acute and Chronic Back Pain
- Acute: the severity of the pain often correlates to the extent of tissue damage. This provides the body with a protective reflex, similar to the reflex to move one’s hand when it comes into contact with a sharp object. Acute pain is a symptom of a diseased or injured tissue, so that if the underlying cause is treated, the pain goes away. Generally, this type of pain lasts less than six weeks.
- Chronic: Unlike acute pain, chronic pain doesn’t serve any protective or biological function. The nerves continually send pain messages to the brain even if there is no incessant tissue damage. Chronic pain usually last for more than 3 months.
Neuropathy is a type of chronic pain while acute pain can be classified as a form of nociceptive pain.
Causes of Back Pain
The exact cause of back pain is usually very difficult to establish. It is thought to be more related to strain in one of the numerous interconnecting structures in the back as opposed to a nerve problem. For many back pain victims, there is no particular condition or underlying problem that can be singled out as the cause of the pain. Nonetheless, there are myriad factors that are known to increase the risk of developing back pain or aggravating it:
- Carrying, lifting or pulling heavy loads
- Sitting, bending, or standing for longer durations
- Poor posture
- Having a fall or a trip
- Being overweight
There are other underlying causes of back pain, but they not as common. They include spinal stenosis, fractures, a slipped disc, osteoarthritis, osteoporosis, spondylolisthesis, and rheumatoid arthritis among others. Infection or cancer can also cause back pain. Your back pain doctor will help pinpoint the cause.
Red Flags for Back pain
It is important to consult your back pain doctor as soon as possible in case you experience back pain and one or more of the following problems:
- Fever (or high temperature)
- Constant pain, especially at night
- Weakness or numbness around the buttons or in one or both legs
- Incontinence or loss of bowel/bladder control
- Pain down the legs or below the knees
- Swelling or redness on your back
- Pain that spreads up the spine
Back Pain Management
Pain management or pain medicine borrows from various disciplines in science and healing arts to study pain, categories, their prevention, diagnosis, treatment and rehabilitation of painful