There are various areas of the back that usually flare up with back pain. These include: upper back pain, middle back pain, lower back pain and lower back pain with sciatica (leg pain and numbness). Arthritis, degenerative disc disease or nerve and muscular problems can all cause back pain. This pain is normally managed with pain medication, but once the cause of the back pain is located, practitioners can target treatments to remedy these issues, rather than simply manage pain symptoms.
Chronic Back Pain
Medically speaking, back pain is considered "chronic" when it lasts for more than 3 months, as opposed to pain that may last for a few days to a few weeks, usually due to an injury. Chronic back pain is not a complete diagnosis in itself, but it is a sign that there is a more serious condition or disease that needs to be addressed to fully resolve the pain symptoms.
Chronic back pain often affects those in middle age and is commonly a result of an injury or strain that never properly healed. It can also be related to the gradual degeneration of the joints and discs or loss of bone strength or muscle elasticity, which is sometimes accelerated by a sedentary lifestyle and lack of exercise.
Specific conditions and injuries may cause chronic back pain. These include:
Spinal stenosis is a narrowing of the spinal column which can put pressure on the spinal cord and surrounding nerve roots, resulting in a variety of neurological symptoms. Age is often associated with spinal stenosis due to the gradual compression caused by gravity. Spinal misalignment, bad posture, bone degeneration or arthritis can all contribute to spinal stenosis. When there are neurological symptoms at play, often back pain can alternatively be treated with neurosurgery as well.
Those suffering from spinal stenosis may experience a burning pain or numbness in the legs or buttocks (sciatica). Others experience weakness in the lower half of their bodies and may even display “drop foot,” where they have difficulties lifting their feet when walking. Unwanted sensation as a result of spinal stenosis can also cause a person to have a tendency to lean forward when sitting.
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Herniated or Bulging Disc
A herniated disc occurs when the outer material of a spinal disc ruptures and the inner jelly-like material emerges, affecting the surrounding nerves and sometimes causing significant neurological pain. A bulging disc occurs when the spinal disc shifts out of place but does not rupture. Both conditions can cause significant pain or none at all depending on the severity and location of the disc issue.
Herniated and bulging spinal discs are normally the result of strenuous physical activity and most frequently occur in males ages 30 to 50, often those who do manual work or drive for long periods of time. It is most common for discs in the lower back (lumbar) to be affected. Occasionally discs in the neck (cervical) region are affected. Rarely do discs in the mid-back (thoracic) become herniated or bulge.
Artificial disc replacement is a treatment option for those with herniated or bulging discs and often successfully results in a return of motion and reduction in pain.
Irregular curvature of the spine can contribute to chronic back pain. Conditions include scoliosis, where there is abnormal curvature from side to side; lordosis, abnormal curvature of the spine backward; and kyphosis, abnormal forward curvature of the spine.
These spine conditions can put additional strain on surrounding muscles, ligaments and the vertebrae themselves. And while they can affect people at any age, spinal skeletal irregularities are most common in adolescents as complications develop during bone growth.
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While the above may be helpful in determining what’s causing your chronic back pain, it is no substitute for a professional diagnosis from spine specialists at Hunt Spine. If you are suffering from chronic back pain or have experienced spinal trauma, it is time for a consultation. Doctors Leonel and Gabriel Hunt are eager to determine the cause of your discomfort and pain, leading you to effective treatment and blissful relief. Please call today to schedule an appointment.