What is low back pain, and what are the causes?
Back pain is one of the most common reasons for going to the doctor. More than 80% of Americans have to deal with it at some point in their lives. You might experience a dull, constant ache or a sudden, sharp pain that makes it difficult to move.
Low back pain is more likely to occur in people between the ages of 30 and 50 because of changes in the body caused by aging. As you grow older, the fluid content between the vertebrae in the spine reduces. This means discs in the spine experience irritation more easily. You also lose some muscle tone, which makes the back more prone to injury.
The condition can start quickly if you fall or lift something too heavy, or it can get worse slowly. Acute back pain can last anywhere from a few days to a few weeks while chronic pain lasts longer than three months.
Typical causes of low back pain
- Sudden movement, overstretching, or lifting something improperly can cause sprains or strains on back muscles and ligaments.
- Bulging or ruptured discs that act as cushions between your bones may press on a nerve.
- Spinal stenosis , or the narrowing of the spaces in your spinal column, creates pressure on the spinal nerves.
- Osteoporosis weakens bones, making them more susceptible to sudden and unexpected fractures.
- Sciatica caused by compression of the sciatic nerve produces burning pain from the lower back down through one leg.
- Scoliosis and other skeletal irregularities may cause pain in middle age.
- Back pain caused by serious illness is possible, but rare.
What are the symptoms, and how do they progress?
Most low back pain is acute and lasts for a few days and 6 weeks. It tends to resolve on its own with self-care, and there is no residual loss of function. The majority of acute low back pain is mechanical in nature, which means there is a disruption in the way the components of the back fit together and move.
Chronic back pain persists for 12 weeks or longer, even after initial treatment. About 20% of people affected by acute low back pain develop chronic low back pain with persistent symptoms.
You might experience
- muscle ache
- shooting or stabbing pain
- pain radiating down your leg
- limited flexibility or range of motion
What are some home remedy solutions?
In most cases, you just need home treatment for low back pain. Hot or cold packs will not treat the injury, but they can relieve pain. Exercise and maintaining good posture while sitting, standing, and sleeping can also strengthen your back and relieve pain. You should attempt to continue as much normal activity as you can tolerate. Studies show that too much bed rest can increase lower back pain.
Many over-the-counter medications are available to help with pain management, but you should always consult a doctor about any potential side effects. Your doctor may also prescribe muscle relaxers and pain medicines if the pain persists.
Treating Low back pain at NWA Interventional Pain
After a thorough physical examination and medical history, our pain clinic will develop a tailored treatment for your needs. Physical therapy is often the first step. As pain improves, the therapist can teach you exercises that can increase your flexibility, strengthen your back and abdominal muscles, and improve your posture.
Diagnostic procedures such as medial branch nerve blocks help us isolate the source of the pain and determine the long-term course of action. We inject an anesthetic in several levels of your spine and have you complete a pain diary. Based on the areas of your back where you felt immediate relief, we have you return for a procedure that will give you pain relief for a longer period of time.
Facet joint injections treat pain in the facet joints between the vertebrae in the spine. These joints allow the spine to bend, flex and twist.
Radiofrequency nerve ablation is a technique that uses heat and radio signals to destroy small nerves that supply the source of your pain.
Sacroiliac joint injections use x-ray guidance to supply cortisone and numbing medicine into the joint between your spine and your hip.
Most treatments relieve pain for several months, and we can repeat the treatment if the pain returns. Since there are important structures such as nerves, blood vessels, and spinal fluid nearby, all of these procedures should be performed by a well-trained Interventional Pain Doctor.
What sort of problems can occur after pain treatment?
Injections do not work for everyone, so you should maintain an open dialogue with the pain control clinic about the progress of your treatment. If your symptoms become more severe, you develop a fever of over 101, or you notice redness or drainage at the injection site, you should call your pain doctor or go to the nearest ER.