Back Pain – A Common Problem
Back pain is a problem you have had or will have. It is the most common reason for physician visits and for employee absence. The low back is most often affected, followed by neck and mid back pain. Due to the anatomy of humans, the low back at the two lowest levels in the spine are most easily injured and prone to degeneration. Back pain treatment is very common.
Causes of Back Pain
The most common cause of back pain is muscle strain from lifting a heavy object or placing unusual rotation on the back. This form of back pain is due to microscopic injury to the ligamentous origin or insertion of the muscles. The most common place is the low back just lateral to the spine at the top of the bony pelvis. These injuries may be from mild to a severe degree. The injury may cause mild to disabling transient back pain lasting from 3-7 days. Pain longer than this duration is usually associated some other injury to bone, disc or nerves. Back pain treatment of rest and, if necessary, pain medication or muscle relaxant will help to resolve the pain.
Other, more complicated back pain can be due to acute injury to disc, bone or ligaments. Everyone has heard the expression of a slipped disc. This term is not a medical definition but refers to degeneration or acute injury to the disc. Fractures of the vertebral bodies or adjacent bones are common but usually in older females.
What is Disc Herniation?
A disc is a cushion pad between the vertebral bodies. It acts as a shock reducing structure to prevent injury to bone, nerves, and muscles. This disc has a very strong outer ring called the annulus fibrosis and a central bubble gum like material called the annulus pulposus. A disc can be deformed by an injury, by recurrent injury or by degeneration. The disc can broadly bulge, focally protrude or extrude.
An acute disc herniation is due to a tear or focal thinning of the strong outer part of the disc with the inner bubble gum like material protruding through this area. Pain is produced by the disc compressing adjacent nerve roots and injury to the disc. Material from the protruded disc is released into adjacent tissue producing an inflammatory reaction. A tear of the disc is like a tear or laceration anywhere in the body. Pain is produced by a tear of the outer disc ring. This explanation is limited but you get the idea.
Back Pain Treatment for Disc Herniation
Disc herniations are predominantly treated by bed rest, pain relief medications and time. Disc disease is very common. At least 40 % of patients with MRI exams have significant disc disease without pain related to the findings. Correlating the patient’s clinical findings and MRI is most helpful. Pain from disc herniation can be severe and debilitating.
The pain may last from two weeks to several months. Some patients have chronic debilitating pain. Back pain treatment of surgery is usually not performed for acute disc herniations unless specific clinical findings, such as a drop foot is present (inability to move foot upward). A one month trial of rest, physical rehabilitation, and pain control is most often used. Most patients markedly improve with conservative treatment.
Back pain is usually self-limiting and benign. However, more dangerous causes of back pain are common including referred pain from abdominal organs, such as kidney stones.
Avoid surgery for back pain treatment if possible. Post surgical complications are not uncommon and can result in chronic pain and worsening symptoms. Conservative back pain treatment with rest and strengthening exercises can help you to avoid surgery.